Zach Kozak, a senior at Gretna High School, was named a semifinalist in the 2022 National Merit Scholarship Program this fall.
High school juniors entered the program by taking the 2020 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT), which served as an initial screen of program entrants.
“I don’t think it’s a test that people would normally think to take, but that’s the test that qualifies you for this scholarship,” Kozak said. “Just give it a shot. You could end up getting a really good scholarship out of it.”
Kozak attended high school in Lincoln for his freshman and sophomore years.
“They made a big deal out of it with a plaque; I thought that was really cool,” he said.
His older brother had a friend who earned the scholarship, who told Kozak all about it.
“It sounded like something I could potentially accomplish,” he said.
Kozak is among 16,000 semifinalists nationwide — representing less than 1% of high school seniors — and is the only Gretna High School student to earn the honor this year. Semifinalists were announced Sept. 15.
“There’s a cutoff of what score you can get and this year’s cutoff was a bit different with COVID,” Kozak said. “I wasn’t sure if I would make it and I was really nervous. I really wanted to be a semifinalist, so I was really excited when I found out.”
Some 7,500 National Merit Scholarships worth nearly $30 million will be offered in the spring. To be considered for the award, semifinalists must fulfill several requirements to advance to the finalist level of the competition, including submit a detailed scholarship application, provide information about their academic record, participation in school and community activities, demonstrate leadership abilities, employment, and honors and awards received. The application includes an essay and recommendation by a high school official.
Along with numerous dual credit courses, Kozak is involved with the GHS Show Choir, One Act play and is captain of the swim team.
He said he is still applying to a couple more colleges, but is “pretty dead set” on majoring in computer science at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln.
“I really want to get into their Raikes School of Computer Science and business, it’s just a great program,” he said.
Finalists are expected to be announced in February and scholarship winners should be announced beginning in April.