Sayville High School senior Grace Urmaza was named a 2021 National Merit Scholarship semifinalist, the school district announced.

As a semifinalist, Grace ranks among the top 0.5 percent of New York state’s high school seniors, according to the district. She is one of 43 semifinalists at Suffolk County high schools.

To become a finalist, she needs to keep up the good work in class, along with writing essays and providing information about her extracurricular achievements, awards and leadership positions. Semifinalists also must be endorsed and recommended by a school official, and earn SAT scores that confirm their qualifying test performance.

It won’t hurt Grace’s chances that is also an accomplished violin player. She recently was named an All-State Musician alternate.

Eventually, a select group of finalists receive National Merit Scholarships totaling nearly $35 million. Scholarship winners represent fewer than 1% of the initial pool of student entrants, based on statistics released by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation.

Over 1.5 million juniors in some 21,000 high schools entered the 2021 National Merit Scholarship Program by taking the 2019 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. The nationwide pool of semifinalists represents one-half of 1% percent of U.S. high school seniors.

From the approximately 16,000 semifinalists, about 15,000 are expected to be named finalists this February. The winners will be named in four separate announcements from April to July.

(From left) Christine Urmaza and her daughter, Sayville High School senior Grace Urmaza, with Sayville High School Principal Ron Hoffer.