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Freshman class to include three National Merit scholars

RELEASED: July 25, 2011

EAU CLAIRE — Three of the approximately 1,950 new freshmen enrolled at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire this fall are National Merit scholars, according to admissions counselor Danielle Widmer.

The scholars are Zachary Forster, Stevens Point, majoring in computer science; Kathryn Hastreiter, Marshfield, majoring in nursing; and Hannah Zidon, Platteville, majoring in secondary education and Spanish.

These most recent recipients of the prestigious scholarship bring the number of National Merit scholars attending UW-Eau Claire this fall to 18. UW-Eau Claire and UW-Madison are the only two schools in the UW System that officially participate in the National Merit Scholarship program. About 200 higher education institutions in the nation offer college-sponsored scholarships through the program.

UW-Eau Claire's National Merit scholars will receive full in-state tuition for four years from the UW-Eau Claire Foundation.

High school students qualify for the scholarship competition by taking the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test, which serves as an initial screen of program entrants. Last fall approximately 16,000 semifinalists were named on a state representational basis, in numbers proportional to each state's percentage of the national total of graduating seniors. Semifinalists, who represent less than 1 percent of a state's seniors, were the only students who had an opportunity to continue in the competition by submitting a detailed scholarship application and meeting other requirements to advance to finalist standing.

More than 15,000 semifinalists advanced to the finalist level and approximately 8,400 were chosen to receive Merit Scholarship awards for 2011.

UW-Eau Claire has participated in the program since 1982 and averages from three to eight college-sponsored Merit Scholarship recipients each year.

Widmer attributes UW-Eau Claire's success in consistently attracting top students to the university's strong academic reputation and personalized attention from faculty.

"There are many opportunities for students to gain real life experience in fields through UW-Eau Claire's outstanding study abroad programs, service-learning and faculty-student collaborative research opportunities," Widmer said.

She noted that the university's Honors Program is another attraction for National Merit scholars, who automatically qualify for the program. The program offers highly interactive classes with no more than 20 students, as well as extracurricular opportunities to academically distinguished students who attend UW-Eau Claire.

For more information about the National Merit scholars at UW-Eau Claire, contact Danielle Widmer at 715-836-5409 or widmerds@uwec.edu.

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RD/DW

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