When Jedidiah Schlung was a sophomore in high school, he lived in Nikolski in the Aleutian Islands.
Schlung had to fly to Dutch Harbor to take the Pre-Standard Aptitude Test because his parents were the only two teachers at Nikolski's school and could not administer the test. He returned home only to find out the test wouldn't count until his junior year. He took the test again at that point and it paid off.
Schlung, whose family has relocated to Kenai, received an honorable mention from the National Merit Scholarship Corporation and has become a finalist for the organization's scholarship program.
"I thought it was really interesting," Schlung said. "I kind of figured the PSAT would be a lot easier than the SAT but when I did the SAT last year, I realized they were pretty much the same."
The National Merit Scholarship Corporation chooses 15,000 finalists out of a pool of 50,000 students from around the county. The 50,000 students are selected based solely on their PSAT scores. According to Schlung, the 8,000 students who will be awarded $2,000 scholarships this month are chosen based on academics.
"They didn't require any essays (or) interviews," he said. "It was mostly just school activity. It's a lot different than all the other scholarships I've been looking at."
In addition to the $2,000 scholarship, National Merit Scholars frequently receive additional awards from the university they choose to attend.
"(One school) said, 'If you become a National Merit Scholar, we'll give you this full scholarship, $18,000 a year,'" Schlung said.
Schlung has applications in at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston University, LeTourneau University, Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering and the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
"I'm pretty confident that LeTourneau is an option and I'm pretty confident that Olin is an option," Schlung said. "I've always thought it would be awesome to go to MIT."
Schlung, who finished his high school course work through the Connections home-school program as a junior and is now taking classes at Kenai Peninsula College, said he can't decide where he wants to focus his studies. He is considering medicine, architecture, teaching and engineering.
"I really like kids. At my church I lead the AWANA team and I've directed vacation Bible school games at Soldotna Bible," he said. "Anytime I can hang out with third- and fourth-graders would be all right with me.
"Right now it's kind of a tossup. Do I want to be with kids or do I want to go with engineering?"
Schlung visited Olin, a specialized engineering institution, at the beginning of the month. The school only accepts about 80 students every year, each with a full scholarship.
"If I got into Olin, I wouldn't even have to worry about the National Merit Scholarship," Schlung said. "I like the environment there because it's really a lot of smart people. I can go to Olin and say, 'Wow there's about 50 people here that are a lot smarter than me.'"
Schlung said he is considering LeTourneau in case he decides to pursue something other than engineering.
"They'll have a lot more options, where as, if I go to Olin, it would just be engineering," he said. "I would like to go to a small school because you get smaller classrooms ... , but I'd also like to go to a bigger school because you get more options."
Schlung's father, Tyler, a teacher at Kenai Middle School, said that he and his wife, Cindy, are "very proud" of Jedidiah.
"There is something inside him that drives him," he said. "I don't know that I can say just what it is, yet it has served him well.
"Regardless of the direction he chooses, we'll be there for him in any way we can. Life is an adventure, and we're both excited to see the adventure unfold."
Hannahlee Allers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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