CULLOWHEE -- Seven members of the fall 2000 freshman class at Western Carolina University are the first-ever recipients of National Merit Scholarships to attend WCU, which earlier this year became North Carolina's newest National Merit sponsor.
The seven incoming WCU students are among a group of 5,000 nationwide winners of national and college-sponsored Merit Scholarships awards, announced last week by the National Merit Scholarship Corp.
Western Carolina in April become the fourth institution of higher education in North Carolina to be designated an official college sponsor of National Merit Scholars. Western, Davidson College, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Wake Forest University are the only institutions authorized to offer National Merit Scholarships out of a total of 59 four-year colleges and universities in the state.
Recipients of Merit Scholarship awards sponsored by Western Carolina University:
- Richard A. Bruns of 3294 Scronce Road, Newton. Bruns, the son of Lou and Andrea Bruns, is attending the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics in Durham. He is considering majoring in business, engineering or computer technology.
- Bridget B. Fitzgerald of 3501 Buckeye Court, Waxhaw. A June graduate of Myers Park High School, Fitzgerald is the daughter of Paul and Patricia Fitzgerald. She plans to major in English.
- Cory R. Habicht of 1519 Georgetowne Drive, Gastonia. Habicht, the son of Richard and Susanna Parlapiano, is a graduate of Ashbrook High School. He plans to major in economics or communication.
- Eric T. Newsom of 829 Wellman St., Gastonia. Newsom is the son of Tom and Shirlene Newsom. A graduate of Ashbrook High School, he plans to major in communication.
- Sarah E. Gross of 4931 Streamside Drive, McLeansville. Gross, the daughter of William and Teresa Gross, is a June graduate of Northeast Guilford High School. She plans to major in biology through WCU's pre-medicine program.
- Julie M. Gruen of 21269 Washburn Ave., Port Charlotte, Fla. Gruen is the daughter of David and Pamela Gruen and a graduate of Charlotte High School. She plans to major in interior design.
- Stephen D. Wilson of 12620 Ramah Church Road, Huntersville. A June graduate of Zebulon B. Vance High School, Wilson is the son of Donald and Cathy Wilson. He plans to major in music.
This year's competition for Merit Scholarship awards began in 1998, when more than 1.2 million juniors in 20,000 U.S. high schools took the Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test, which serves as an initial screen of entrants. In September 1999, fewer than 1 percent of the nation's high school seniors were designated semifinalists.
By February of this year, about 15,000 semifinalists advanced to become finalists based on SAT score, academic performance, extracurricular activities, achievements, and endorsement of teachers and principals. About 7,900 finalists are awarded scholarships under the auspices of the National Merit Scholarship Corp.
"National Merit finalists are the cream of the crop academically, students who are sought after by the best colleges and universities in the United States," said Phil Cauley, WCU director of admissions.
Western's scholarship package for National Merit Scholars covers in-state tuition, mandatory fees, room, board and a computer. The first college-sponsored National Merit awards from WCU are being given to new freshmen for the fall 2000 semester.
Some 200 higher education institutions are providing more than 4,200 college-sponsored Merit Scholarship awards this year through the National Merit Scholarship Program. Sponsor colleges and universities -- about 115 private and 90 public institutions -- are located in 43 states and the District of Columbia.