16 Lawrentians become National Merit Semi-Finalists

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V Formers Jacqueline Chen, Christine Cheng, Jupiter Huang, Shepard Jiang, Mak Kalwachwala, Ashley Lee, Steven Leung, Katie Li, Kristen Li, Alex Liang, Hamza Mian, Rana Myneni, Tuntai Tumpunyawat, Chelsea Wang, Michael Yu, and Ryan Zhang qualified as National Merit Semifinalists in the 66th annual National Merit Scholarship Program.

V Formers Jacqueline Chen, Christine Cheng, Jupiter Huang, Shepard Jiang, Mak Kalwachwala, Ashley Lee, Steven Leung, Katie Li, Kristen Li, Alex Liang, Hamza Mian, Rana Myneni, Tuntai Tumpunyawat, Chelsea Wang, Michael Yu, and Ryan Zhang qualified as National Merit Semifinalists in the 66th annual National Merit Scholarship Program. These students will now be competing for some 7,600 National Merit Scholarships worth more than $30 million that will be offered in the spring.

The process begins with students achieving scores in the top one percent of their state on the PSAT (Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test). Approximately 16,000 out of 50,000 students are recognized as National Merit Semifinalists each year.

To become a finalist, students must then submit a scholarship application consisting of a list of extracurriculars, awards, honors, and an essay to be evaluated by the College Board and the National Merit Scholarship Corporation. Semifinalists also have to submit recommendation letters, their school transcript, and SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test) or ACT (American College Testing) scores. All applicants are notified in February regarding finalist selections; approximately 15,000 of the 16,000 semifinalists advance to the Finalist level.

Of the 15,000 finalists, around 8,000 students receive Merit Scholarship Awards. Finalists in each state with the strongest combination of academic accomplishment, passion, and potential for success in rigorous college studies are awarded $2500 scholarships. These scholars are carefully selected by a committee of college admissions officers and high school counselors who assess the Finalists’ applications.

For Wang, though she entered the test with little to no preparation, the PSAT was “nothing new” as she had taken the SAT a few months prior to the National Merit qualifying test. She found that studying “pretty thoroughly for the SAT in the summer leading up to [her] test,” which involved taking multiple mock tests, turned out to be “immensely helpful, as the PSAT is just an easier version of the SAT.”

Myneni had a similar test preparation experience, as he had taken the ACT before. To familiarize himself with the upcoming qualifying test, Myneni took a few practice tests. Since the PSAT serves merely as a practice for the SAT, Myneni believed that “the whole point was not to study and invest too much time into preparation.”

The scholarship winners from the Finalists’ applications will be announced between April and July of 2021.

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