11 District Scholars Win $2500 National Merit Scholarship


The National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC®) recently announced this year’s National Merit $2500 Scholarship winners. The 2,500 Merit Scholar designees were chosen from a talent pool of more than 15,000 outstanding Finalists in the 2023 National Merit Scholarship Program.

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. The number of winners named in each state is proportional to the state’s percentage of the nation’s graduating high school seniors.

Among the 2500 finalists nationwide, eleven exceptional students from Cobb Schools were chosen for the NMSC scholarships. Representing eight high schools around the District and various interests for next-level study, the students will receive a nice check to help fund their collegiate studies. 

Scholars were selected by a committee of college admissions officers and high school counselors, who appraised a substantial amount of information submitted by both the Finalists and their high schools: the academic record, including difficulty level of subjects studied and grades earned; scores from the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT®); contributions and leadership in school and community activities; an essay written by the Finalist; and a recommendation written by a high school official.

NMSC finances most of these single-payment National Merit $2500 Scholarships. Corporations and company foundations that sponsor awards through NMSC also help underwrite these scholarships with grants they provide instead of paying administrative fees. Scholars may use their awards at any regionally accredited U.S. college or university.

This year’s National Merit Scholarship Program began in October 2021 when high school juniors took the PSAT/NMSQT, which served as an initial screen of program entrants. Last fall, the highest-scoring participants in each state, representing less than one percent of the nation’s high school seniors, were named Semifinalists on a state-representational basis. More than 16,000 Semifinalists had an opportunity to continue in the competition.

From the Semifinalist group, over 15,000 students met the very high academic standards and other requirements to advance to the Finalist level of the competition. By the conclusion of the 2023 program, more than 7,140 Finalists will have earned the “Merit Scholar” title and received nearly $28 million in college scholarships.

NMSC, a not-for-profit organization that operates without government assistance, was founded in 1955 specifically to conduct the National Merit Scholarship Program. The majority of scholarships offered each year are underwritten by approximately 340 independent corporate and college sponsors that share NMSC’s goals of honoring scholastically talented youth and encouraging academic excellence at all levels of education.

These Cobb Schools students are among the national finalists:

Jason T. Petito (Allatoona HS) Probable career field: Computer Science

Jack Lakis (Harrison HS) Probable career field: Law

Elise M. Barron (Hillgrove HS) Probable career field: Astrophysics

David K. Chan (Kennesaw Mountain HS) Probable career field: Computer Science

Erin E. Cooney (Lassiter HS) Probable career field: Landscape Architecture

Shaunak R. Karnik (Pope HS) Probable career field: Computer Science

Gavin J. Du (Walton HS) Probable career field: Consulting

Chaitanya Sri Yetukuri (Walton HS) Probable career field: Business Administration

Rithu A. Hegde (Wheeler HS) Probable career field: Computer Science

Kabir A. Maindarkar (Wheeler HS) Probable career field: Chemical Engineering

Lakshmi Valliyappan (Wheeler HS) Probable career field: Medicine

Congratulations to these 11 well-deserving and high-achieving students for their hard work and focus. We know you will all do great things throughout your college careers and beyond!