JACKSON TWP.  Jackson High School senior Julia Hartnett is excited to be one of about 16,000 students to be named as a semifinalist in the National Merit Scholarship competition. She is the daughter of Tom and Chryssa Hartnett.

Hartnett - along with the others - was selected from students who took the 2015 preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. With the highest possible score being 228, Hartnett scored 224. She now has the opportunity to compete for 7,500 National Merit Scholarships with the base individual scholarship at $2,500.

Hartnett has been applying at several colleges this fall. She is still determining which major and career path she would like to take.

"I’m leaning towards an English and literature major, but I also like the sciences," Hartnett said.

To be considered for Merit Scholarship, semifinalists must fulfill several requirements to advance to the finalist level. About 90 percent of the semifinalists are expected to earn the finalist standing and about half of those students will win a National Merit Scholarship and the Merit Scholarship title.

Information from the National Merit Scholarship Program states that students must submit a detailed application with information about his or her academic record, participation in school and community activities, demonstrated leadership abilities, employment and honors and awards received. Scholarship winners will be announced in news releases beginning in April 2017.

"The application process involved submitting basic educational information and my school counselor submitted some information," Hartnett said. "I also had to write an essay. I wrote about a mentor who continues to make a difference in my life."

Hartnett wrote about her karate instructor Steve Hinderman of East Coast Martial Arts in Jackson Township. Hinderman passed away last year from cancer.

"He taught me so many lessons about respect and how to work on goals every day," she said. "Even though he is gone, I still use what he taught me to inspire others."

Hartnett said she wanted to thank all her teachers at Jackson Local and, especially, Mr. (Matt) Gillette, her junior year AP teacher.

"Mr. Gillette always encouraged me to be the best I can be and not to settle for being average," she said. "My family and I were surprised to get the news because I took the test so long ago. It’s such a big honor to be a semifinalist and to show my family what I can achieve. My parents have always encouraged me to be curious and to always keep learning."

The National Merit Scholarship Program is a not-for-profit organization that operates without government assistance. It was established in 1995. Scholarships are underwritten by its own funds and by approximately 420 business organizations and higher education institutions to honor the nation’s scholastic champions and encouraging the pursuit of academic excellence.