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New Mexico State University

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National Merit Scholars from Las Cruces to attend NMSU

Preparing for college is an exhaustive process that includes taking exams, applying to colleges and finding ways to pay for college, which most high school students start during their senior year.

From left: National Merit Scholars Joanna Beeson, Pravit Chintawongvanich and Ted Mansfield will attend New Mexico State University this fall. (NMSU photo by Darren Phillips)

Joanna Beeson, Pravit Chintawongvanich and Ted Mansfield, all of Las Cruces, have had slightly different experiences while preparing for college and spent every year in high school preparing for it.

Beeson, of Onate High School, Chintawongvanich, of Las Cruces High School, and Mansfield, of Mayfield High School, all graduated with above a 4.0 GPA, took numerous advanced placement courses, received high scores on the Preliminary SAT (PSAT) and SAT, and were involved in many extracurricular activities. Some of these activities included band, orchestra, the Key Club, volunteering at soup kitchens, speaking different languages and traveling around the world.

All three students were recognized as National Merit Scholars and will be attending New Mexico State University this fall.

The National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) was developed in 1955 to honor academically talented U.S. high school students and support their continuing education. Students who become National Merit Scholars are among the top one percent of high school seniors in the nation.

The competition requires students to take the PSAT while juniors in high school, send in letters of recommendation, present an outstanding academic record, be endorsed by the school principal, write an essay and confirm their test performance by taking the SAT.

"For NMSU to be able to compete with some of the nation's top schools and attract these talented students to our campus is really tremendous," said Jason Ackleson, associate director of the Honors College.

In fact, these students had offers from schools such as Texas Tech University, Stanford University, Arizona State University and the University of Oklahoma.

"We want to keep as many of the best students in New Mexico high schools in New Mexico," said Steve Castillo, dean of the College of Engineering.

Castillo was instrumental in redeveloping a recruitment strategy to attract the National Merit Scholars to NMSU. He said competing with other prestigious universities requires having appealing scholarship options, high quality programs and departments that work together during the recruitment process.

Beeson, Chintawongvanich and Mansfield all received the President's Associate Honors Scholarship, which pays for tuition, fees and gives them $1,750 a semester. They also received supplemental scholarships from their colleges and departments, new laptop computers donated by Intel Corp. and had the opportunity to meet with many professors in their colleges.

Beeson will study biology and biochemistry, Chintawongvanich will study electrical engineering and German and Mansfield will study civil engineering and music.

Ackleson said this was the first year NMSU really tried to recruit such students. He said the collaboration between the Honors College and many other departments on campus helped the students get an overall picture of NMSU.

In May, the Board of Regents voted to change the Honors Program to the Honors College to attract academically talented students and compete with the nation's top schools.

"Having an established honors college has really helped with recruiting," Castillo said. "It tells everyone that NMSU values quality and excellence."

Castillo said he hopes to get more funding for scholarships, continue developing high quality programs and develop a coordinated strategy with other departments.

"NMSU has a lot to offer and a lot of high quality programs," Castillo said. "Recruiting students, such as National Merit Scholars, enhances our reputation so other students realize the many opportunities available at NMSU."