11 Cabot seniors named National Merit Scholarship Semifinalists

By Lisa Burnett Originally Published September 19, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated September 18, 2013 at 10:39 a.m.
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PHOTO BY: Rusty Hubbard

Anna Applegate and Caleb Southard, seniors at Cabot High School, are two of the school’s 11 National Merit Scholarship Semifinalists.

CABOT — Eleven Cabot High School seniors have given their teachers something to brag about: The students were named National Merit Scholarship Semifinalists by the National Merit Scholarship Corp.

Approximately 16,000 semifinalists in the nation were announced on Sept. 11.

Cabot High School has the second-largest number of National Merit Scholarship Semifinalists in the state, following first-place Central High School in Little Rock, which had 24.

To become National Merit Scholars, students must take the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test before their senior year of high school and finish in the highest scoring pool of entrants in their state.

According to the National Merit Scholarship Corp.’s website, the number of semifinalists in a state is proportional to the state’s percentage of the national total of graduating seniors.

Aaron Randolph, Gifted and Talented and Advanced Placement director for the Cabot School District, said he is proud of the students who earned the designation.

“Eight of the 11 students have been students in Cabot since elementary school,” Randolph said.

The number of National Merit Scholarship semifinalists has risen since last school year.

“Last year, we had five,” Randolph said.

Anna Applegate, 17, is one of the 11 semifinalists. She has been a Cabot student since kindergarten.

“I’m excited for it to be official,” Applegate said.

Now that Applegate is a semifinalist, she and her 10 classmates have to go through another application process to qualify to be National Merit Scholarship Finalists.

“The hardest part has been an essay,” she said. “We have to write about a teacher or a project that has influenced us.”

The official finalists list will be released Feb. 6.

When Caleb Southard, 17, found out he was a semifinalist, he said he was thrilled about the news. He has also been a Cabot student since kindergarten.

“I was excited because I don’t want to pay for college,” he said.

Caleb’s mother, Shannon Southard, who works at Cabot High School as a library media specialist, was elated with the news of her son being named a semifinalist.

“I was very excited and proud,” she said. “He works hard. We are super lucky we live here

because every teacher he’s had [at Cabot] cares about him as a person first, and his academics second.”

Randolph said the Gifted and Talented teachers who help these students with their applications for National Merit Scholarships have been very supportive of them.

“They’re integrating more test-taking skills into their [GT] classes,” he said.

Randolph said students are given the opportunity to take GT Seminar 1 and GT Seminar 2 at Cabot High School.

He said students who complete the seminar classes consecutively have seen an average growth of 23 points on their SAT scores.

If a student is chosen as a winner of a National Merit Scholarship, he will be awarded with either a National Merit $2,500 scholarship, a corporate-sponsored Merit Scholarship award or a college-sponsored Merit Scholarship award.

More information about the National Merit Scholarship

Corp. is available at www.


Staff writer Lisa Burnett can be reached at (501) 244-4307 or lburnett@arkansasonline.com.

Online News Editor Lisa Burnett can be reached at lburnett@arkansasonline.com.

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