Even in rural communities, students are able to shine across national platforms, including a Dickinson High School senior who was recently named a National Merit Scholarship finalist.

Hailey Graves, a senior at DHS, was hand picked out of 16,000 semi-finalists as a National Merit Scholarship finalist. Graves will receive $5,000 per year, totaling to $20,000 over the course of her four-year degree at the University of Minnesota, where she will pursue a degree in materials engineering.

“It really is an honor. It always surprises me to get an award like that because I never expected it,” Graves said. “It’s such an honor and it’s going to help so much to help me go to school.”

The National Merit Scholarship Corp. holds an annual competition for recognition and university scholarships, in which all finalists receive a certificate of merit to recognize their outstanding performance in the competition. In order to qualify as semi-finalist for the NMSC, Graves had to get in the top 1% of the PSAT scores high school students take during their junior year. The application process took place last fall, and that’s when Graves had to submit her transcripts, compose an essay and a recommendation letter.

“The school really promotes students and really helps them get to where they want to go. So (with) this test, my counselor (Maxine Huack) helped a lot. She helped me with my essay,” Graves said. “... Without the help of the school, I probably wouldn’t have gotten so far with this scholarship.”

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Across the country, the NMSC will select approximately 15,000 finalists. Graves will be considered for the National Merit Scholarship Award in March.

“It really is an honor especially coming from a small school and a small town in North Dakota. To be awarded such a big, national thing, I’m really proud that I could come from such a rural area because it always seems like it’s the big cities that get that type of thing,” she said.

Graves encourages her younger classmen to begin researching scholarships and jumping on those educational opportunities instead of waiting until the last minute.

“It’s never too early to start thinking about that because the way college prices are now, especially if you want to go out of state, (it’s expensive),” Graves said. “... Even the test for this when you take it junior year before you even start applying for colleges, (is important). So you really just want to make sure you’re on the right track, keeping up to date with things and really paying attention with scholarships coming out.”