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Philomath High School senior Rhiannon Gudge was named as one of 16,000 semifinalists in the 64th annual National Merit Scholarship Program, the organization announced Thursday.

Gudge has an opportunity to continue in the competition for some 7,500 National Merit scholarships worth more than $31 million that will be offered next spring.

To be considered for a merit scholarship award, semifinalists must fulfill several requirements to advance to the finalist level of the competition. Over 90 percent of the semifinalists are expected to attain finalist standing, and about half of the finalists will win a scholarship.

NMSC, a not-for-profit organization that operates without government assistance, was established in 1955 specifically to conduct the annual National Merit Scholarship Program.

Gudge reached the semifinals after more than 1.6 million then-juniors from approximately 22,000 high schools entered the program by taking the 2017 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test, which served as an initial screen of program entrants.

Gudge was one of five Benton County students to earn the honor. The others are Mia Bilka and Karishma Gottfried of Corvallis High and Andrew Jones and Aravind Sriram of Crescent Valley.

The nationwide pool of semifinalists, representing less than 1 percent of American high school seniors, includes the highest-scoring entrants in each state. The number of semifinalists in a state is proportional to the state’s percentage of the national total of graduating seniors.

National Merit Scholarship winners are selected on the basis of their skills, accomplishments and potential for success in rigorous college studies without regard to gender, race, ethnic origin or religious preference.

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