FARMINGTON — Farmington High School senior John McNamara scored a perfect ‘36’ on his ACT test and is a semi-finalist for the National Merit Scholarship.

As for McNamara’s perfect score of 36, there were only 29 students who achieved a perfect score in the entire state of Missouri last year out of the 49,222 students who took the exam. Overall, the senior class average ACT score currently sits at 22.5, with a state average of 21.6.

Senior Counselor Andrea Pruett said when she began filling out McNamara’s form for the national scholarship it was different because he began taking high school courses so early. There were not spaces to put all of his college and high school classes because he had taken so many.

He began taking high school classes when he was in fifth grade. In eighth grade he took trigonometry and math analysis because he wasn't eligible for college classes at that time.

He has taken AP classes through University of Missouri-Columbia as part of their high school learning program. Stanford University also offers a similar program and McNamara has been taking classes through that program as well.

"I am not doing dual credit classes because the classes probably wouldn't transfer and I am not going to Mineral Area College when I graduate," said McNamara.

The high school senior has a couple of goals this year to achieve before he graduates. One is to make All State Band. Another is to be Valedictorian. He is hoping to attend a large university with a diverse environment. His dream is to attend Stanford University.

"I have been filling out applications to all colleges. Stanford is my goal but my dad wants me to attend Texas," said McNamara.

He is not sure yet what he wants to major in but knows one thing ... it will be math or science research related.

"I am leaning towards those but not for sure yet what I want to do exactly. I want to get to school before I fully decide what I want to do. I want to keep my options open," said McNamara. He added, "A lot of stuff sounds interesting."

According to the National Merit Scholarship website the program was established in 1955. National Merit Scholarship Corporation is an independent, not-for-profit organization which operates without government assistance. The National Merit Scholarship Program is an academic competition for recognition and scholarships.

High school students enter the National Merit Program by taking the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test, which serves as an initial screen of approximately 1.5 million entrants each year, and by meeting published program entry/participation requirements.

Of the 1.5 million entries, some 50,000 with the highest PSAT/NMSQT Selection Index scores (critical reading, mathematics, writing skills scores) qualify for recognition in the National Merit Scholarship Program. In April following the fall test administration, high-scoring participants from every state are invited to name two colleges or universities to which they would like to be referred by NMSC. In September, these high scorers are notified through their schools they have qualified as either a Commended Student or Semifinalist.

In early September, about 16,000 students, or approximately one-third of the 50,000 high scorers, are notified that they have qualified as semi-finalists. They are the highest scoring entrants in each state.

NMSC provides scholarship application materials to semi-finalists through their high schools. To be considered for a National Merit Scholarship, semi-finalists must advance to finalist standing in the competition by meeting high academic standards and all other requirements explained in the information provided to each semi-finalist.

Around February about 15,000 semi-finalists are notified by mail they have advanced to the finalist standing. Merit Scholarship winners are chosen from the finalist group based on their abilities, skills and accomplishments with no regard to gender, race, ethnic origin or religious preference.

A variety of information is available for the National Merit Scholarship Corporation selectors to evaluate including the finalists' academic records, information about the school's curriculum and grading system, two sets of test scores, school officials' written recommendations, information about the students' activities and leadership and the finalists' essays.

McNamara is active in many areas at Farmington High School. He has been in marching band for the last four years and serves as a drum major. He is the secretary of Theatre Guild, and involved in Academic, National Honor Society, Scholar Bowl, attended Missouri Scholars Academy in 2011 and Missouri Boys State in 2012 and is going back as a counselor in 2013. He is also in Boy Scout Troop 471 and currently working on becoming an Eagle Scout.

"John is an amazing student and sometimes people who are brilliant aren't well-rounded but John is," said Pruett.

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