Lincoln Academy Head of School Jeff Burroughs with National Merit Semifinalists (from left) Lucas Steinberger, Quinn Straus, and Aidan McCullen.

For the first time since 2008, three Lincoln Academy seniors have qualified as National Merit Semifinalists in the same year. Aidan McCullen, Lucas Steinberger, and Quinn Straus were all honored last week for scoring in the top 1% of the 1.5 million high school juniors who took the PSAT (also called the NMSQT, or National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test) in the fall of 2018. National Merit Scholars are selected by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation and the College Board. There are a total of 16,000 National Merit semi-finalists nationwide in 2019.

The last time Lincoln Academy had three National Merit Semifinalists was in 2008, when Thomas Balch and twins Hannah and Mary Deblois were all honored. While LA often has one semifinalist in a year, it is rare to have multiple students achieve this honor in a single class.

“It is always exciting to have a student qualify as a National Merit Semifinalist,” said Sarah Wills-Viega, Lincoln Academy’s Director of Counseling and Studies. “Given Lincoln Academy’s size, it is rare to have three students qualify in a single year. We are extremely proud of these students, and we wish them well as they continue on in the competition.”

As high school seniors, the three semifinalists are just at the beginning of their college application process, so while all three plan to attend four-year colleges, they have not yet decided where they will go.

In addition to rigorous course schedules that include multiple AP classes, all three National Merit Semifinalists are also active in extracurriculars. Aidan McCullen competes for the varsity golf, indoor track, and baseball teams at LA, and is a percussionist in the wind ensemble and jazz band. In college he plans to join an ROTC program and study economics and international affairs. Lucas Steinberger competes for the cross country, wrestling, and track teams, plays bass in the wind ensemble and jazz band, and participates in Model United Nations. He plans to study at a liberal arts college, with a possible career in education. Quinn Straus is a member of the state-champion math and debate teams at LA, plays both French horn in the wind ensemble and cello in the orchestra, and plans to study mathematics in college.

Competition for the next level of the National Merit Scholarship will be challenging. After being awarded their Semi Finalist certificates, students have the opportunity to continue in a national competition to become National Merit Finalists, and ultimately National Merit Scholars. The rigorous application process considers recommendations from teachers, student essays, and high school grades in the selection of 7,600 total National Merit Scholars, who will be awarded an aggregate $33 million in college scholarships this year.