JACKSON TWP.  Arjun Shanmugam recently graduated from Jackson High School. In early May, he learned that he was a $2,500 National Merit Scholarship winner. Shanmugam plans to use the scholarship while attending Brown University in Providence, R.I., starting this fall.

“I’ll be majoring in economics and I’m not sure what field my career will be in yet, but I’m thinking possibly in government policy and finance,” Shanmugam said.

He said that he put in a lot of hard work throughout his four years in high school including taking as many Advance Placement (AP) classes as he could.

“Those classes are pretty challenging and when colleges look at your application and see AP courses, they know how much you challenged yourself in high school," Shanmugam said.

In addition to the AP courses, Shanmugam scored 1,550 out of 1,600 on the SAT and 34 out of 36 on the ACT. His leadership and community activities included working with the Jackson Memorial Middle School kids in speech and debate. He also attributes his success to playing tennis in high school.

“Tennis has been a big part of my life and it has helped me grow and become a better leader. Tennis takes a lot of work to get better and constantly improve,” Shanmugam said.

His required 600 word essay was about going to a country music concert because “going was a good experience and it brought him out of his comfort zone.”

Julie Prato was Shanmugam’s counselor at the high school. She said, “I can’t think of anyone more deserving, he’s one of the top students I’ve encountered in my career.”

“This was a cool experience winning the scholarship," Shanmugam said. "It’s really a vindication of all my hard work over the past four years. I have four people I have to thank including Mrs. Prato. She’s been great and I’ve been lucky to have her help over the past few years. My parents, Mak Shanmugam and Priya Ramaiah, and my little sister, Divya, who have all supported and helped me. Plus, I appreciate all of my teachers my tennis coach, and all the people who have pushed me over the past four years.”

The 2,500 Merit Scholar designees were chosen from a talent pool of more than 15,000 outstanding Finalists in the 2019 National Merit Scholarship Program. National Merit $2,500 Scholarship winners are the Finalists in each state judged to have the strongest combination of accomplishments, skills, and potential for success in rigorous college studies.

These Scholars were selected by a committee of college admissions officers and high school counselors, who appraised a substantial amount of information submitted by both the finalists and their high schools; the academic record, including difficulty level of subjects studied and grades earned; scores from two standardized tests; contributions and leadership in school and community activities; an essay written by the Finalist; and a recommendation written by a high school official.