Record number of Beaufort County students honored as National Merit semifinalists for 2023

BEAUFORT– Nine Beaufort County School District students have been announced as semifinalists in the 2023 National Merit Scholarship Program and will advance to the next level of competition.

Selected as national semifinalists were Michael Dennison and Susan Livesay (Beaufort High), McKenzie Morgan and Jason Ni (Bluffton High), Cynthia Gudaitis and Benjamin Lewis (Hilton Head High), and Sarah Nunez, Lucy Peltz, and Brooks van Esselstyn (May River High).

These students entered the 2023 National Merit Scholarship Program competition by taking the 2021 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. They are part of the nationwide pool of semifinalists that includes the highest-scoring entrants in each state, placing them in the top one percent of all U.S. high school seniors.

As semifinalists, they will compete with 16,000 national finalists for 7,250 college scholarships worth nearly $28 million.

These are nine extraordinary students, I am confident they will represent Beaufort County exceptionally well in the next phases of this national competition.


In order to become a finalist, each semifinalist and their high school must now submit a detailed application that provides information about the student’s academic record, participation in school and community activities, leadership abilities, employment, and honors and awards.  In addition, each semifinalist must be endorsed and recommended by an official from their high school, write an essay, and earn SAT or ACT scores that confirm the student’s earlier score on the qualifying test.

The National Merit Scholarship Corp. is a nonprofit established in 1955, and its scholarships are underwritten by NMSC with its own funds and more than 340 businesses and higher education institutions.