SEBRING — Sebring High 2021 graduate Rey Arcenas won a full scholarship to the University of Florida in being named recently as a National Merit Scholarship winner.

National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) announced recently the names of 3,100 winners of National Merit Scholarships financed by U.S. colleges and universities.

Officials of each sponsor college selected their scholarship winners from among the finalists in the 2021 National Merit Scholarship Program who plan to attend their institution.

Arcenas was in Sebring High School’s International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme. In his junior and senior years all of his classes were IB classes, which will give him general course credits at the University of Florida. He also took multiple advanced placement classes.

Arcenas said he received a “full-ride” scholarship.

National Merit Scholarship finalists who apply to any State of Florida university receive a Benacquisto scholarship providing a full scholarship to any public university in the state, Arcenas explained.

“When I received the notice that I was a semifinalist last fall, I completed the application to be a finalist and listed UF as my top choice college and then the process continued for months,” he said. “Then I received notice that I was a finalist and then UF notified me that they were providing me with a scholarship.”

The scholarship covers tuition, board and lodging, and textbooks.

“The IB Programme definitely did prepare me a lot for the PSAT [standardized test used by NMS] because a lot of the courses force you to think,” Arcenas said. Taking the PSAT in your junior year is one of the steps to qualifying for a National Merit Scholarship.

At first when he was named an NMS semifinalist he didn’t think it was a “big deal” because many finalists receive a $500 scholarship, but a couple weeks later Arcenas saw that Florida had the Benacquisto scholarship program.

“I was absolutely floored because nobody told me about this,” he said.

For the fall semester, Arcenas will be going to Gainesville to attend the University of Florida. He is planning to go to law school and graduate school after earning his bachelor’s degree.

Over 1.5 million juniors in about 21,000 high schools entered the 2021 National MeritnScholarship Program when they took the 2019 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT), which served as an initial screen of program entrants.

Last fall, approximately 17,000 semifinalists were named on a state-representational basis in numbers proportional to each state’s percentage of the national total of graduating high school seniors.

Semifinalists were the highest-scoring program entrants in each state and represented less than 1% of the nation’s seniors.

To compete for Merit Scholarship awards, semifinalists first had to advance to the finalist level of the competition by fulfilling additional requirements.

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