Big Fork Eagle (Big Fork, Mont.) reported that Amber McDaniel, an incoming member of the class of 2016, was one of 550 semifinalist chosen out of 3.2 million students in the 2012 U.S. Presidential Scholars Program, the highest academic honor in the country. McDaniel will pursue a double major in Psychology and Criminal Justice at Arcadia, as reported by Eagle contributor Matt Naber.
Semifinalists are selected based on a wide range of criteria, but primarily based on their academic and artistic achievements, leadership qualities, strong character, and involvement in community and school activities. Grades, along with SAT and ACT test scores, play a major factor as well.
McDaniel had a 30 on the ACT and a 2080 on the SAT.
“When I got my (test) results back, it said it was in the top half percent of the nation, it was crazy, I didn’t expect it,” McDaniel said. “They say it (the award) is the highest honor a high school student can receive. It’s cool to know my hard work has paid off.”
McDaniel will know sometime this month if she is among the 141 finalists selected. If she is selected as a finalist she will fly to Washington D.C. with her English teacher and Speech and Drama coach, Charlie Appleby, to meet government officials, educators, authors, musicians, scientists and other accomplished people.
During the nomination process, McDaniel selected Appleby as having a significant impact on her achievements and he wrote essays about her that will be used as factors in determining if she will be a finalist.
“She’s so deserving of it,” Appleby said. “It’s great to see it all paying off for her. It’s a great teaching tool to point to her and say good things will happen if you work hard.”
Modesty has been McDaniel’s policy when it comes to her academic achievements. She is one of five valedictorians this year, earned a 4.0 for all four years of high school and has never received a grade lower than an A. Although her high school graduation isn’t until next month, she already has a semester of college completed as well.