Annaliese Johnson has now been named one of 15,000 finalists for the National Merit Scholarship.  PHOTO BY GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/CHATFIELD NEWS
Annaliese Johnson has now been named one of 15,000 finalists for the National Merit Scholarship.


Chatfield High School senior Annaliese Johnson, daughter of Todd and Brenda Johnson of Chatfield, was recently notified that she's vying for one of only 8,000 National Merit Scholarship grants after qualifying as a semifinalist last September.

"It was pretty awesome. I got a letter in the mail in mid-February saying that I'm a finalist," Annaliese said.

The National Merit Scholarship is a program into which juniors who take the PSAT college test are automatically entered, but Annaliese was one of the top 50,000 of the over 1.5 million students in the U.S. who take the PSAT each year.

She'd known she was possibly a semifinalist - one of 16,000 students chosen, and one of 15,000 to advance to semifinalist status - since last spring, when she did well on her PSAT, scoring at roughly the 99th percentile in Minnesota.

Out of the 15,000 who are named semifinalists, 8,000 receive scholarships. Annaliese said being named a National Merit Scholar "would be pretty awesome since only about 8,000 people in the country will be getting have to be right on top to do that."

She added, "It can open a lot of doors for you. I've had offers for full rides at schools...not ones I've applied to, but I think that getting a full scholarship for college would be really good for a lot of people."

Annaliese has logged plenty of hours and ink in the process of becoming a National Merit finalist, as she's had to write essays, fill out paperwork and answer questions. The list of requirements includes being enrolled in the last year of high school and be planning to enroll full-time in college in the fall of 2013. She also had to be recommended for a National Merit Scholarship by her high school principal and she had to have a record of very high academic performance in all of grades nine through 12.

Annaliese has toured some very prestigious educational institutions while awaiting college acceptance letters, as she's searching for the school that offers a strong math program and research department with opportunities for undergraduates. Last fall, she was favoring Princeton, CalTech, Stanford and Harvey Mudd, though she's also toured MIT, Harvard, Yale, the University of Chicago, Michigan Tech and Carleton.

The reality that Annaliese could actually attend Ivy League schools doesn't surprise her parents, but it certainly makes them proud, as Todd noted, "The interesting part is that it is possible."

Annaliese stated that "it's too soon to know" what she would like to become after she graduates, as she's primarily interested in math and science. She's got plans to attend graduate school and obtain her doctorate, which could take up to eight years or more of schooling and land her just about anywhere on the map, as the career fields she hopes to enter someday might not even exist right now.

"I'm still kind of figuring out what types of math I like," she explained. "The classes I want aren't available here, so I think the first year, I'll take a bunch of classes and see what I like best. My long-term plan is to get my doctorate. Where I'll live depends a lot on where I go to college, and if I get a job offer, I'll probably stay there. I do like to travel, too, so maybe I'll study abroad and go to Germany or England."

Annaliese is a very dedicated student, but she takes time out to enjoy herself. "I play French horn in band, and I'm in the Southeastern Minnesota Youth Orchestra (SEMYO). I manage the cross-country team, I'm in Wits' End Theatre in the summer, I'm on the Knowledge Bowl team, and I play piano," she explained.

She also likes watching classic movies such as "Casablanca," "Rear Window" and "It's a Wonderful Life," and is an avid bibliophile who reads science fiction and fantasy books.

Finally, Annaliese admits she is proud to represent Chatfield as a National Merit Scholarship finalist, as most National Merit Scholars come from larger cities and schools.

She will be proud to be able to answer any question of "Where are you from?" with "Chatfield," where she's worked to keep her grades up and build her knowledge of mathematics toward a career she can only now dream of.