Annaliese Johnson is a National Merit Scholar and has chosen to attend Harvey Mudd, a college outside Los Angeles.
Annaliese Johnson is a National Merit Scholar and has chosen to attend Harvey Mudd, a college outside Los Angeles.
Annaliese Johnson's education is going to Mudd.

The language is clear there - an equation that speaks logic.

"I'm enrolled at Harvey Mudd next fall - you don't officially declare your major until your sophomore year, but I'll probably major in mathematics," said the 2013 Chatfield High School graduate.

She is also now a National Merit Scholar and is anticipating the continuation of her education at Harvey Mudd, a college just outside of Los Angeles.

"It's going to be kind of interesting...coming from a small town and going to a big city," Annaliese added. "Most of the people are from larger cities, and it's going to be interesting to tell them about how small Chatfield is, but there's a commonality because a third of the student body are National Merit Scholars, and the rest came really close."

She explained that the language is also a common thread and explained that an experience during her college visit made her laugh and more comfortable in her setting. "When I visited the school during the enrolled students' week, we were at dinner, and one of the girls called her younger sister her 'subset' and that was really funny to those of us who love math," she explained. "We can talk about random calculus theory, and the neat part is that everyone gets what's funny."

But seriously...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 that she was possibly a semifinalist - one of 16,000 students chosen, and one of 15,000 to advance to semifinalist status - since spring 2012, 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. This past March, when she received her finalist's letter, she stated that 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."

And "right on top" she was.

Though she'd received a letter notifying her that she was a finalist, she appreciated the letter of confirmation that she was indeed a National Merit recipient.

Her status as a National Merit Scholar qualified her as a candidate for entrance into Ivy League and other prestigious schools. Annaliese had considered attending Carleton or Michigan Tech, but she feels the curriculum and culture at Harvey Mudd suit her best.

"I decided that out of the three colleges, Harvey Mudd was the best, that it most fit my needs," she said. "Having a National Merit Scholarship is a bonus."

Annaliese's career aspirations have "bounced around a lot" since she was little, beginning with being a veterinarian, then a teacher, a scientist, and "then I discovered that I really loved math, so I researched what you could do with a degree in math, and I found that there's a wide range of options that might be good for me, a chance for me to do something different."

She outlined the possibilities, including "actuarial research, chemistry, biology, any of the scientific fields," and is busy looking at the class catalog, trying to decide which courses she'd like to take because all of them seem to be of interest.

"There are so many branches of math that I want to go and learn about," she added. "I really don't know what I want to become. I think I'm going to go to grad school when I'm done with college, get my Ph.D., maybe my master's, so that will be about eight to 10 years. But the way technology is changing, the jobs that might be out there in five years might not even exist right now."

Her career search ought to have a great start, as Harvey Mudd is a small school with an enrollment of approximately 800 students, and though it does not have its own roster of sports and fine arts opportunities, it is part of a consortium of schools in the area that offers such opportunities, as well as internships with major companies.

"There's so much that's great about the Harvey Mudd campus. It's beautiful, and even though it's near a city, it's a suburb that feels like Chatfield. It has the resources...even though Harvey Mudd is a liberal arts college, it's very heavily focused on math and science," Annaliese said. "Seniors are required to do a thesis or a clinic project - companies like Yahoo and Nike pay the college for a team of seniors to study and work on a problem, and through the clinic, they develop some solutions that are positively amazing...they surprise the companies, and to show how good some of them are, they get job offers right out of college for places they've worked for."

She knows how proud her parents, Todd and Brenda Johnson, are that she received a National Merit Scholar scholarship and how she is venturing out into a larger world and taking it on by herself, something that she's never done before.

"I think I'll most miss my friends, because I'm the only one of our friends group that's going really far away, and I'm not going to be able to see them unless we Skype," she said.

However, Annaliese observed, "Harvey Mudd is a really awesome school, and part of the reason I'm going there is because it's so far away. I want to see more of the world, and California is such a big place, very similar but very different, and it's good to see part of the world that I'm not used to. I think it will actually make me a better person."

She also said she would seriously consider studying abroad, in countries like Hungary or Germany.

"Goodness knows where grad school will take me . . . East Coast, West Coast,'s going to be a lot of fun, though," Annaliese concluded.