Mitchell Boulter and his friends often joke that “procrastination makes perfect.”

The Monroe High School senior said he and his peers often use strategy to study for an upcoming test. His mother, Julie, said watching the process makes her cringe.

“What he tends to do is leave it until the last minute, and then he panics,” she said.

Boulter referred to it as “cramming.” Despite the approach, it’s working.

The honor student was named a National Merit Scholarship semifinalist this fall. As a junior, he placed in the top 1 percent of the 1.6 million students who took the 2016 Preliminary SAT, also called the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test.

The accolade is uncommon, even at the local level.

Monroe School District spokesperson wrote in an email that Boulter was the only semifinalist this year. Only one student at the high school advanced last year, as well.

“National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) was established in 1955 — a time in which there was concern that the United States was lagging behind in the cold war scientific race, but the public was indifferent to rewarding intellectual accomplishment,” according to the nonprofit.

About 228,000 academically talented students have been recognized since it began, according to the organization. The program is meant to find extra financial support for their studies.

This year’s winners will be announced in April, and they could receive thousands of dollars to put toward their higher education. Boulter hasn’t officially decided between the three schools he is applying to: the University of Washington, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and or Stanford University. The extra money may determine his selection; Stanford’s tuition is about $58,000 per year.

Julie Boulter said if her son is going to Massachusetts or California, he is going to need scholarships.

Boulter said right now he is excited for the recognition. Despite his unstructured method for studying, the senior has always taken academics seriously; he holds a 3.97 GPA.

Julie Boulter attributes his successes to an inquiring mind. Since he was 3 years old, Boulter could be found taking things apart and putting them back together. Julie said she would find him with deconstructed pens at an early age, and the fascination only continued to flourish from there.

She would buy him Lego sets he would work on with intensity. He has always seemed to be curious about how things operate. She sees that inquisitiveness carry over outside the classroom. Boulter often spends his free time researching politics, social issues, biotechnology and global warming, she said.

Boulter said he has always been drawn to numbers. He is looking at careers in engineering or biotechnology — something in the STEM fields. The influence from his father, who works at Microsoft, as well as learning to code in calculus class, were what solidified the trajectory for him, he said.

“Once we got to the more complex stuff, I really started liking it,” he said.

Boulter recalls having an elevated interest in his schoolwork since elementary school. He and his family moved to the Monroe area in 2007, when he was in second grade. In middle school, his enthusiasm dwindled for a while.

In sixth grade, Boulter was among the thousands of students bullied nationwide every year. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, one in three students in the sixth through 12th grades have been subjected to bullying.

Boulter wrote about the experience in his essay he sent in for the application to become a finalist. His teachers helped advise him that his emotional connection with the events would serve as a good topic.

The situations he came up against mostly involved verbal tactics. What stays with him to this day are the skills he learned to stick up for himself.

Boulter eventually realized he was going to have to be the one to end the confrontations. After speaking with a counselor, who couldn’t provide the help he needed, he knew no one could do it for him. He figured out how to disengage the bullies by agreeing with what they said continuously until they lost interest, or he just ignored them.

More recently, when taking advanced math classes in school, Boulter again realized he would be on his own at home. It had been long enough that his parents weren’t able to walk him through areas he struggled in. So, he learned again to work through the problems himself.

Boulter also took the reins on studying for the PSAT. He decided to go after the merit scholarship after having done well on the practice test he took with his peers sophomore year.

Monroe High School math teacher Jim Bogesvang had Boulter during his junior year.

“He is diligent, hard working and also really cared about the subject we shared, which is mathematics,” he said. “...He is just the kind of student every teacher would want to have.”

For his senior year, Boulter had to make the hard choice between Bogesvang’s AP Computer Science course, or marching band, his other love. After some debate, Boulter settled on the music.

Aside from the money, and a good engineering program, the quality of the marching bands at each of his top schools may hold sway over where Boulter decides to attend college. He plays in the MHS Wind Ensemble, which is the audition-only group for seniors.

Of the roughly 170 students in each of the five MHS bands, nearly all are in marching band, Boulter said.

Boulter’s best and longest friends have all been in music class with him at some point since he started out in sixth grade. Julie Boulter said he always just seemed to know he wanted to play the clarinet; he has stuck with the instrument for the past seven years.

“You get to go out and show off what you have learned in public, and you get to be a part of a team,” he said.