Technology High School senior Travis Jenkins recently received word that he is one of only seven Sonoma County high school students to be named a National Merit Scholarship Semi-finalist. Being naturally competitive, especially when it comes to academics, Jenkins has been pursuing high achievements his whole educational career.
“Since a young age I highly valued academic achievement,” says Jenkins, who lived in Rohnert Park until earlier this year. “I’ve gotten pretty competitive in that regard. That led me to push myself and study and prepare myself to take the test.”
Nationwide, more than 1.5 million juniors in about 21,000 high schools completed the PSAT (Preliminary SAT) test, a qualifying test for the National Merit Scholarship program. The highest-scoring entrants in each state receive the semi-finalist distinction, which accounts for about 16,000 students this year, representing less than one percent of high school seniors across the country.
“Once you’re a semi-finalist you apply, turn in grades and a variety of things and you can become a finalist,” says Jenkins. “We’re currently doing applications to become finalists. Once you’re a finalist there is the option of getting certain scholarships. Some scholarships are from companies, some are from colleges and some are from the National Merit Scholarship Organization themselves.”
Besides submitting their academic record, semi-finalists are also expected to present their participation in school and community activities, leadership skills, employment experience, and any honors and awards they’ve received. Their SAT or ACT scores must also reflect their earlier high marks on the PSAT and they must be endorsed and recommended by a high school official. Generally, more than 90 percent of the semi-finalists will reach the finalist distinction and about half of the finalists will win a National Merit Scholarship.
Jenkins appears well poised to reach the finalist award. He acts as Head Captain of the school’s cross-country team, is President of the Associated Student Body, and participates in various local theater productions, including several at Spreckels in Rohnert Park. He has also done some tutoring and is interested in pursuing peer mentoring.
How does he fit it all in?
“High school has definitely taught me to be better organized with my life,” says Jenkins. “Something I find really important is knowing what you need to do and prioritizing what needs to be done. Always have that list and whenever you have free time you know what you can do now and what is the most important thing to be doing at that moment. That’s been very helpful to keep things organized.”
This year will be one with a lot of decisions to make, primarily what university to attend next fall. Jenkins feels he will most likely attend one of the UC universities, and hopes to major in computer science. In this last year of high school he reflects on his experience at Technology High.
“I really like learning new things,” says Jenkins. “Some of the classes feel like work but there are definitely some classes where it feels like you’re learning about the world. I find that really interesting and have enjoyed that part.”
Jenkins pushed himself to get involved in different activities in high school and suggests the same to younger students.
“Always try to be doing stuff,” says Jenkins. I remember there were times when I was just coasting along in school and not really doing anything, and I feel that’s a bad habit to get into. If you have a lot of free time take on more and be willing to do more and be involved with really anything. Join a club that interests you, or if a class seems interesting to you, just take it. Be willing to take on more with your life until you have to pull back and remember also not to be afraid to do so. Be willing to pull back because it can be easy to take on too much and then get burnt out. Then you’re not really doing any of the things because you don’t really have the energy for any of them.”
Not only is this good advice for the underclassmen in high school, but adults could benefit from this guidance as well – get involved in your community, try new things, but learn when to say no!