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Thirteen students from seven area high schools will have a chance at $31 million in scholarships to be awarded next spring by the National Merit Scholarship Corp.

The seniors are among 16,000 semifinalists in the 65th annual National Merit Scholarship Program — four at University High School, three at Centennial High, two at Champaign Central, and one each at Urbana, Mahomet-Seymour, St. Joseph-Ogden and Villa Grove.

More than 90 percent of semifinalists are expected to make it to the finalist round, and about half will earn one of 7,600 scholarships, earning the title of National Merit Scholar.

The semifinalists are:

— Centennial: Anushka Agrawal, Min-Seung Kang, Juliann Xu

— Central: Duncan Bruce, Davin Yoo

— Urbana: Olivia Rosenstein

— University High: Ethan Ashbrook, Pomona Carrington-Hoekstra, David Sun, Brandon van der Donk

— Mahomet-Seymour: Timothy Glumac

— St. Joseph-Ogden: Erica Guelfi

— Villa Grove: Samuel Reno

More than 1.5 million juniors nationwide entered the 2020 scholarship program by taking the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test in 2018. The semifinalists, who represent less than 1 percent of U.S. high school seniors, include the highest-scoring entrants in each state. To become a finalist, semifinalists must submit a scholarship application outlining their academic record, participation in school and community activities, leadership abilities, employment, and honors and awards. They also have to be recommended by a high school official, write an essay and earn comparable scores on the ACT or SAT.

Every finalist competes for one of 2,500 National Merit scholarships worth $2,500 each. About 1,000 other awards are granted by corporate sponsors, and 4,000 scholarships are awarded by individual colleges and universities to students attending their institutions.

Reporter/Columnist

Julie Wurth is a reporter covering the University of Illinois at The News-Gazette. Her email is jwurth@news-gazette.com, and you can follow her on Twitter (@jawurth).