Owatonna's Sophia Paley is a semifinalist for a National Merit Scholarship, according to a news release made available on Wednesday.

The National Merit Scholarship Corp. announced the names of about 16,000 semifinalists, narrowed from the 1.6 million juniors nationwide who entered the 2017 program by taking the 2015 Preliminary SAT / National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test.

These students have an opportunity to compete for about $33 million in scholarships to be offered through 7,500 National Merit awards next spring. Semifinalists must submit an application for further consideration. The student's academic record along with school and community involvement will be taken into account. Candidates must also write an essay and be recommended by a school official.

The national total represents less than 1 percent of the total number of high school seniors. Each state's semifinalist total is proportional to its percentage of the national total of seniors.

The news release estimates that 15,000 of the students will become finalists. Scholarship winners will come from this group. Three types of scholarships will be awarded in spring 2017. Students will be eligible for one of 2,500 National Merit Scholarships of $2,500. Corporations and business organizations sponsor about 1,000 awards. In addition, many universities and colleges offer aid to Merit winners who attend their institution.

Other regional semifinalists include Madeline Drevlow of Faribault Bethlehem Academy. Northfield students Alexander Gunn, Lars Ripley, Iren Stoutland and Christof Zweifel also are semifinalists.