Two Rock Bridge seniors win college-sponsored National Merit Scholarships

Wednesday, May 29, 2013 | 8:07 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — Two graduating Rock Bridge High School seniors were awarded prestigious college-sponsored National Merit Scholarships this admissions season. They competed against 15,000 other finalists and were among the 2,500 winners announced today.

Jacob Freyermuth

Types of National Merit Scholarships

There are three types of  Merit Scholarship awards. 

National Merit $2,500 Scholarships

Every finalist competes for one of these scholarships, which are awarded without consideration of family financial circumstances, college choice, major or career plans.

On May 8, two Rock Bridge High School students, Stephen Alena Turban and David C. Wang, won National Merit Scholarships.

Corporate-sponsored Merit Scholarship awards

Corporate sponsors furnish awards for those who live in communities where the company operates, for finalists who are pursuing careers the sponsor wishes to encourage and for employees' children.

College-sponsored Merit Scholarship awards

Sponsor colleges select winners from the pool of finalists who have either been accepted for admission or selected the sponsor college as their first choice. The scholarships are worth $500 to $2,000 annually for up to four years of undergraduate study at the sponsoring school.

Freyermuth is headed to the University of Minnesota to pursue studies in physics and possibly math.

This fall won't be Freyermuth's first time in a college class, however. Between his junior and senior year of high school at the age of 17, Freyermuth enrolled at MU and took a five-credit-hour intensive calculus-based physics course, Physics 2750. That fall, he also took Math 2300 at MU with a few classmates.

Freyermuth first considered a career in physics his sophomore year as a result of a biology class assignment. The students were instructed to pick a science book to read — any book, from any field. He picked "The Fabric of the Cosmos" by physicist Brian Greene.

"That was around the time I was thinking I was going to study physics, Freyermuth said. "(Reading the book) got me excited. It got me looking beyond what I would be studying. I started thinking who knows what I could be working on in ten years."

Lily Qian

Qian is headed to Northwestern University to pursue studies in medicine and has an interest in perhaps specializing in oncology or pathology.

For Qian, helping people is an inherent part of who she is, so wanting to become a doctor and aid people professionally came naturally.

"I like being nice to people because I think it's important," Qian said. "People should give back and be grateful. In a sense, I have always wanted to help people especially as I have grown older and I've seen how many people need help. I've been blessed with the opportunities that I've had and I want to increase theirs. It feels like the right thing to do" she said.

At Rock Bridge, 'great academic opportunities'

For both Qian and Freyermuth, Rock Bridge High School was a big cog in the machine of their personal and academic success.

"I was lucky to attend a high school where they give you so much freedom," Qian said. "You can have a tough curriculum at any high school, but Rock Bridge forces you to become more mature as an individual. I think that really made me prepared for the real world."

Between the academic curriculum, expectations of personal responsibility and invested staff, Rock Bridge provided an excellent learning and growing environment Qian and Freyermuth said. Both students count themselves lucky to have been Rock Bridge Bruins.

"I'm really glad I got to go to Rock Bridge. It's been a lot of fun," Freyermuth said. "I've had really, really great academic opportunities that I wouldn't have been able to have living in a different place. It's been challenging, but it's been fun and its prepared me well for college."

Supervising editor is Hannah Wiese.

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