The National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) announced this year’s National Merit $2500 Scholarship winners. St. John’s School graduating senior and class valedictorian, Heera Kodiyamplakkal, was selected as one of the 2,500 Merit Scholar designees chosen from a pool of more than 15,000 outstanding Finalists in the 2020 National Merit Scholarship Program. The National Merit Scholarship Program is an annual academic competition for recognition and college undergraduate scholarships.
According to the NMSC press release, National Merit $2500 Scholarship winners are the Finalists in each state judged to have the strongest combination of accomplishments, skills, and potential for success in rigorous college studies. They were selected by a committee of college admissions officers and high school counselors who judged the finalists by their academic record, including difficulty level of subjects studied and grades earned; scores from the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test; contributions and leadership in school and community activities; an essay written by the Finalist; and a recommendation written by a high school official.
By the end of the 2020 program, about 7,600 Finalists will have earned the “Merit Scholar” title and received a total of over $30 million in college scholarships.
The high school senior was flabbergasted that she was selected as one of the awardees. “I couldn’t believe it! I was so surprised! Only about 0.5 percent of 1.5 million test takers around the USA receive the scholarship, so I was not expecting I would be one of them,” said Kodiyamplakkal. “I am thankful to God. I also thank my parents and teachers who have always encouraged me to work hard and give me confidence when I most need it.”
Kodiyamplakkal plans to attend Vanderbilt under a full merit scholarship, double majoring in Medicine, Health, Society (MHS) and Communications on a Pre-med track. She is both nervous and excited as she will soon enter college. Although Kodiyamplakkal will miss being in Guam with her family and friends, she is excited to experience living in a new environment (with four seasons) in Tennessee. “I am also looking forward to challenging myself and being able to take courses out of sheer curiosity. College also offers a wonderful opportunity to immerse myself in new clubs and get involved in research. I am really excited to meet people from so many different backgrounds and form lifelong friendships.” She further added that she is just excited to see where college will take her and how she will grow as an individual.
Although Kodiyamplakkal will be leaving St. John’s School, she said the school has challenged and allowed her to become more independent and motivated and develop a better work ethic. “What makes St. John’s classes, especially the IB classes, unique is that it enables me to think outside the box and see connections between drastically different subject areas or topics,” Kodiyamplakkal explained. “I think it’s this perfect combination of rigorous academics, talented and invested teachers, and a welcoming student body that has made my time at St. John’s so memorable.”