ATEMS senior Dathan Dillinger has been named one of the nation’s semifinalists for the National Merit Scholarship.

He is one of more than 16,000 high school seniors across the country who earned the distinction and joins that group in continuing in the competition. The corporation will award around 7,140 National Merit Scholars in the spring, with awards totaling nearly $28 million in scholarship money. To be considered for a National Merit Scholarship award, semifinalists must fulfill several requirements to advance to the finalist level of the competition. About 95 percent of the semifinalists are expected to attain finalist standing, and approximately half of the finalists will win a National Merit Scholarship, earning the Merit Scholar title.

The nationwide pool of semifinalists, representing less than one percent of U.S. high school seniors, includes the highest-scoring entrants in each state. In addition to his outstanding academic success, Dillinger is one of the most accomplished musicians in the district.

A member of the Cooper High School Cougar orchestra, Dillinger has twice been selected a Texas Music Educators Association Texas Music Scholar (2022 and 2023), and last year, he advanced to state Solo and Ensemble contest after earning all-region honors with a first-division rating on a Class 1 solo. He was also part of a combined quartet with Cooper and Abilene High musicians that posted a first-division rating on a Class 1 ensemble.

Additionally, Dillinger played the cello in the orchestra for the theatrical production “The SpongeBob Musical,” which combined the dramatic and musical talents of Abilene High and Cooper students.

To become a finalist, Dillinger and an ATEMS official must submit a detailed scholarship application to provide information about the semifinalist’s academic record, participation in school and community activities, demonstrated leadership abilities, employment, and honors and awards received. A semifinalist must have an outstanding academic record throughout high school, be endorsed and recommended by a high school official, write an essay, and earn SAT or ACT scores that confirm the student’s earlier performance on the qualifying test.

Of more than 16,000 semifinalists, more than 15,000 are expected to advance to the finalist level, and in February, they will be notified of this designation. All National Merit Scholarship winners will be selected from this group of finalists. Merit Scholar designees are selected based on their skills, accomplishments, and potential for success in rigorous college studies, regardless of gender, race, ethnic origin, or religious preference.

Three types of National Merit Scholarships will be offered in the spring of 2024. Every finalist will compete for one of 2,500 National Merit® $ 2,500 Scholarships awarded on a state-representational basis. About 840 corporate-sponsored Merit Scholarship awards will be provided by approximately 160 corporations and business organizations for Finalists who meet their specified criteria, such as children of the grantor’s employees or residents of communities where sponsor plants or offices are located. In addition, about 160 colleges and universities are expected to finance some 3,800 college-sponsored Merit Scholarship awards for Finalists who will attend the sponsor institution.

National Merit Scholarship winners of 2024 will be announced in four nationwide news releases beginning in April and concluding in July. These scholarship recipients will join nearly 375,000 other distinguished young people who have earned the Merit Scholar title.