Culver has seven Merit semifinalists

Jan Garrison

Representing the Midwest


October 19, 2020

Seven Culver seniors and first classmen have been named semifinalists for the National Merit Scholarship Program. Culver Academies received the vast majority of the 11 positions reserved for students in the Midwest boarding schools region. The region includes 24 boarding schools in 10 states.

The announcement was made by Dean of Faculty Josh Pretzer during Culver’s fall academic convocation. The semifinalists include:

  • Konner Brockus (Phoenix, Arizona),
  • McLayne Houin (Pymouth, Indiana),
  • Evan Lu (San Marino, California),
  • Jinwon Pae (Yorktown, Indiana),
  • Elena Vona (Perrine, New Jersey),
  • William Wei (San Jose, California), and
  • Yugi Lin (Hangzhou, China).


Top left: Konner Brockus, McLayne Houin, Evan Lu, Jinwon Pae. Bottom left: Elena Vona, William Wei, Yugi Lin.


They are part of the 16,000 semifinalists nationwide who are now eligible for the National Merit Scholarships, which will be announced in the spring. Approximately 15,000 seniors will be selected as finalists, making them eligible to receive National Merit Scholarships of $2,500, corporate-sponsored Merit Scholarships, and college-sponsored Merit Scholarships.

The finalists are selected based on their academic records, information about the school’s curricula and grading system, two sets of test scores, high school officials’ written recommendations, information of the student’s activities and leadership, and each finalist’s own essay.

The semifinalists are selected from a national pool of 34,000 commended scholars. Eight Culver students received that designation. They were:

  • Jacob Graham (Granger, Indiana),
  • Cassandra Kaplan (Zionsville, Indiana),
  • Jingwei Qin (Shanghai, China),
  • Zherui Xiao (Nanjing, China),
  • Yichen Xie (Shanghai, China),
  • Rebecca Young (Canton, Michigan),
  • Xuanming Zhang (Beijing), and
  • Ziyao Zhang (Tianjin, China).

Commended scholars are selected from the 50,000 highest scores on the PSAT/NMSQT, which is taken annually approximately by 1.5 million high school juniors across the nation.

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