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Why do so many professors list National Merit Semifinalist on their CVs?

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Simfish

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Why do so many professors list "National Merit Semifinalist" on their CVs?

I mean, most of their later accomplishments should easily supersede the NMSF award on their CV.

And I know people with high school achievements better than the NMSF, but who refrain from mentioning them. But yet, they still mention the NMSF on their CVs.

NMSF status is certainly well known throughout the academic community - more famous than other HS awards. Does that probably explain why it's mentioned so often? (why people often mention that and not "AIME Qualifier", for example?)
 

Vanadium 50

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Re: Why do so many professors list "National Merit Semifinalist" on their CVs?

Many professors? I don't believe this is true.

Can you provide five examples?
 

Simfish

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Re: Why do so many professors list "National Merit Semifinalist" on their CVs?

http://www.google.com/search?num=100&hl=en&safe=off&q="curriculum+vitae"+filetype:pdf+"national+merit"

Quite a lot of them
 

Vanadium 50

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Re: Why do so many professors list "National Merit Semifinalist" on their CVs?

You're going to have to work harder than that. Most of those are not professors, and most of the professors are talking about a German merit award.

We cannot establish "why" until we establish "if".
 

Simfish

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cristo

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Re: Why do so many professors list "National Merit Semifinalist" on their CVs?

Of the list that you gave, I didn't find one that mentioned "semifinalist". There were several CV's with "national merit scholarship", which seems to be more of a CV-worthy award...
 

Simfish

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Re: Why do so many professors list "National Merit Semifinalist" on their CVs?

Don't the majority of National Merit Semifinalists ultimately earn scholarships?

Of the 1.5 million entrants, about 50,000 qualify for recognition. More than two-thirds of those qualified receive Letters of Commendation; about a third of the 50,000 become Semifinalists, about 94% of whom go on to become Finalists. Over half of the Finalists are selected to receive scholarships underwritten by corporations and business organizations, colleges and universities, and by NMSC with its own funds.[2]
Okay. And what makes a scholarship more prestigious than an academic honor that comes without a scholarship?
 

cristo

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Re: Why do so many professors list "National Merit Semifinalist" on their CVs?

Don't the majority of National Merit Semifinalists ultimately earn scholarships?
I had never heard of this competition, so I wouldn't know.


Okay. And what makes a scholarship more prestigious than an academic honor that comes without a scholarship?
Perhaps there are fewer of these scholarships handed out (since they come with money attached) than other academic honours. I have no idea, though, whether this thing is 'prestigious' or not...
 

Simfish

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Re: Why do so many professors list "National Merit Semifinalist" on their CVs?

Hm, there are generally a huge number of national merit scholars, compared with people who have other academic honors (say, National AP Scholar or US Physics Team Semifinalist). National Merit Scholarship basically means that you scored in the top 0.5% of people who took the PSAT (in your state). And the fact that it measures the top 0.5% of people in each state - it makes it sort of sketchy - since the cutoffs in New York are MUCH higher than, say, the cutoffs in Wyoming.
 

Vanadium 50

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Re: Why do so many professors list "National Merit Semifinalist" on their CVs?

That's still filled with non-professors. If you add "professor" to the list, you get 1700 hits - this is not an excuse for actually doing the work of looking at these CVs, of course.

I don't know exactly how many professors there are in the US. There are 1.6 million post-secondary teachers. Surely at least a quarter of them have the title of "professor", which would mean that you are talking about 0.4% of them. Alternatively, there are 4800+ colleges in the US, which means that most colleges do not have a single professor who has done this.

This is not "many".
 

Simfish

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Re: Why do so many professors list "National Merit Semifinalist" on their CVs?

I've looked at many CVs before - I just don't have their CVs to add to this thread right now (this is really a question I've wondered about for a very long time).

Furthermore, a google search for a "CV" will not list every professor who has a "CV". Some professors don't have their CVs on their sites, and some list their CVs under different names. Google doesn't infallibly index everything either. Furthermore, many professors came from foreign countries, others didn't come from schools that offered the PSATs, and yet many other professors never even won the award.

Oh, and my search only included pdf files - many professors list their CVs as html files.

You can run a more specialized search for a more prestigious university. For example, try Harvard:

http://www.google.com/search?sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8&q=site:washington.edu+"national+merit"+"curriculum+vitae"#sclient=psy&hl=en&safe=off&q=site:harvard.edu+"national+merit"+"curriculum+vitae"&aq=f&aqi=&aql=&oq=&pbx=1&fp=25a0b2344dc0e416

87 results. That is quite a lot.
 

AlephZero

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Re: Why do so many professors list "National Merit Semifinalist" on their CVs?

This is probably just an example of a positive feedback loop. If Harvard think this is an interesting achievement, then people applying to Harvard will put it on their CV.

But compared with Europe, the US meaning of "professor" is so devalued that it hardly means anything anyway, so "not winning some national competition the rest of the world has never heard of" might possibly be the most significant thing that some US "professors" have ever achieved in their careers.
 
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Re: Why do so many professors list "National Merit Semifinalist" on their CVs?

This is probably just an example of a positive feedback loop. If Harvard think this is an interesting achievement, then people applying to Harvard will put it on their CV.

But compared with Europe, the US meaning of "professor" is so devalued that it hardly means anything anyway, so "not winning some national competition the rest of the world has never heard of" might possibly be the most significant thing that some US "professors" have ever achieved in their careers.
Really? What is the U.S.'s meaning of "professor"?
 

Vanadium 50

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Re: Why do so many professors list "National Merit Semifinalist" on their CVs?

You really, really need to look at what Google returned.

On the first two pages, one professor is listed five times. There are 4 other professors (making, in total, 5), 3 grad students, 6 postdocs or similar and 2 people who aren't at Harvard. So perhaps 1/4 are unique professors. In 87 hits, then I expect 22 Harvard professors. Harvard has a faculty of just over 2000. So it's 1%.

This is not "many".
 
Re: Why do so many professors list "National Merit Semifinalist" on their CVs?

I mean, most of their later accomplishments should easily supersede the NMSF award on their CV.
One thing that you should be aware of is that academic CV's are very different from industry resumes. Industry resumes tend to be short (2 pages max) since the person reading the CV has to shovel through dozens if not hundreds of resumes to find the ten or so in the short list.

In the case of academic CV's, there are only ten people in the world qualified for the position anyway, so they tend to be extremely long and include everything the person has ever done. Also people never make decisions solely on an industry resume, but there are situations in which people will make a decision based solely on an academic CV (grant proposals).

So if you include something that is irrelevant on an academic CV, it's not going to hurt you. If you include something irrelevant on an industry resume, it will kill you.

The other thing is that once a professor is tenured, they are probably not going to be looking for a job for a long time, and so the CV's aren't very well written. Writing a decent industry resume isn't very difficult, but most people in academia really have never needed to and so don't know how.
 

Simfish

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Re: Why do so many professors list "National Merit Semifinalist" on their CVs?

Okay thanks! That's rather helpful. I'm also curious why some grad students also include the award in their CVs (even though it probably isn't very helpful to them).

The other thing is that once a professor is tenured, they are probably not going to be looking for a job for a long time, and so the CV's aren't very well written. Writing a decent industry resume isn't very difficult, but most people in academia really have never needed to and so don't know how.
Ah interesting. I didn't think of that before.
 
Re: Why do so many professors list "National Merit Semifinalist" on their CVs?

Don't the majority of National Merit Semifinalists ultimately earn scholarships?
According to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Merit_Scholarship_Program" [Broken], it's about half (~8200/16000). What I didn't realize was that almost all the semifinalists become finalists (~15000/16000). That certainly makes it seem like it should be unusual to see "semifinalist" in a CV, rather than "finalist".

Personally, it never even crossed my mind that it might be a useful thing to put on a resume or CV once I finished high school.
 
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Vanadium 50

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Re: Why do so many professors list "National Merit Semifinalist" on their CVs?

but there are situations in which people will make a decision based solely on an academic CV (grant proposals).
Have you reviewed many grant proposals? I have. I have never, ever, seen a situation where a decision was based solely on a CV. Not one.
 
Re: Why do so many professors list "National Merit Semifinalist" on their CVs?

Have you reviewed many grant proposals? I have. I have never, ever, seen a situation where a decision was based solely on a CV. Not one.
CV + the actual proposal. The difference between that and a job interview is that if you leave something important off a resume and it turns out to be important, then you can mention it later if they ask since they will talk directly to you at some point. If you have a CV and you leave off something critical, there isn't any chance that you have to communicate that to the review committee.

I have never been in a meeting where a decision was based solely on a CV, but I have been in grant meetings where the fact that one of the submitters had a long list of publications and awards was important, and if you leave something off, the committee is not going to communicate directly with the writer of the CV.

In job interviews, once you make it to round one, you will be talking with the people evaluating you, so the resume just needs to get you to round one. With grant proposals, even the names of referees is something that you don't know, and they are not going to have any contact with you before they make their decision so the CV has to get you to the end of the process.
 
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Re: Why do so many professors list "National Merit Semifinalist" on their CVs?

Let me give a concrete hypothetical example.

Suppose you are reviewing grant proposals for a multi-disciplinary project, and you get a nice proposal from team X. Looking over the proposal, it's really ambitious, and you wonder if they can pull it off. It turns out that you and the other referees believe that its essential for this to work for one of the team members to have a lot of experience in field Y. Unfortunately for team X, it's rather unclear looking over their CV's if they have research experience in field Y. Even more unfortunately, there is another team with CV's in which it's clear that they one of the members is an expert in field Y.

So you have referees a bit frustrated that they can't figure out if team X has experience in field Y, and unlike industry, you can't just call team X and ask since everyone is supposed to be anonymous. You might get the program manager to call team X, but even this is irregular enough so that it's not going to happen.
 

Vanadium 50

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Re: Why do so many professors list "National Merit Semifinalist" on their CVs?

I'm not saying people don't look at CVs. I am objecting to the statement that they solely look at CVs.
 
Re: Why do so many professors list "National Merit Semifinalist" on their CVs?

I'm not saying people don't look at CVs. I am objecting to the statement that they solely look at CVs.
Point taken. I should have said it a different way.

But I think my point that because academic CV's are just read in a different way than industrial resumes, so that people tend to want to put everything they have ever done no matter how trivial into a CV, whereas industrial resumes are just different beasts. People just read academic CV's in a different way than industrial resumes.
 

mathwonk

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Re: Why do so many professors list "National Merit Semifinalist" on their CVs?

Indeed some people, presumably with brains the size of a pea, but occasionally in charge of whole departments, judge academic merit by the length of a person's vita. (It is easier to count the pages than to read it, although one of my roommates once numbered the pages of his research paper, 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,9,10.) Thus some opportunistic people list everything they have ever done: e.g. "I went to the bathroom successfully this morning".... These individuals sometimes wind up as "stars" with larger than average salaries.... sad but true. 20 years ago one of my best recruits ever, who was interviewing for department head, was asked why, if he had NSF support, he had not listed it on his vita. He responded "no self respecting mathematician would list his GRANT SUPPORT on his vita!" Although a powerful researcher of international stature, he was not hired. Needless to say no one today EVER says or does this. Indeed no one even believes this level of integrity was ever the norm.

forgive me, obviously this pushed one of my buttons.
 
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