NICEVILLE — Cailey Ness of Crestview, a senior at Collegiate High at Northwest Florida State College, is a National Merit finalist. She is being considered for a Merit Scholarship award.

The National Merit Scholarship Program recognizes high school students with exemplary academic achievement, leadership skills and official recommendations. For entry, students must take the PSAT, be enrolled in high school, have U.S. citizenship and plan to enroll as a full-time college student.

From well over a million submissions, 50,000 students are then considered for semifinalist status. After another elimination, 15,000 students advanced to finalist standings.

As a National Merit finalist, Ness hopes to receive a scholarship to Millsaps College in Jackson, Mississippi, where she will double major in chemistry and economics while playing on the volleyball team.

"Earning this scholarship will help me attend the college of my dreams," Ness said. "I always saw myself at a small, liberal arts college, and this scholarship would help make that happen."

The program awards approximately 7,500 finalists with one of three types of Merit Scholarships: National Merit, corporate-sponsored Merit or college-sponsored Merit. The program chooses winners based on abilities and accomplishments.

If she wins, Ness will receive her award before June.