2020 National Merit Semifinalists announced, juniors prepare for PSAT


Gina Nguyen

Top row (left to right): Aiden Leise, Guillermo Hoffmann Meyer, Austin Eubank Second row (left to right): Esmond Tsang, Vayd Ramkumar, Dennis Lee Third row (left to right): Ryley Fallon, Linda Arnoldus, Nathan Lee Front row (left to right): Rachel Zheng, Sophia Comino Not pictured: Callie Martin

Gina Nguyen, Editor-in-Chief

Twelve MSMS students have been named 2020 National Merit Semifinalists by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC). These students qualified by meeting or exceeding the selection index, scoring approximately in the top 1 percent: Linda Arnoldus, Sophia Comino, Austin Eubank, Ryley Fallon, Guillermo Hoffmann Meyer, Dennis Lee, Nathan Lee, Aiden Leise, Callie Martin, Vayd Ramkumar, Esmond Tsang and Rachel Zheng.

Every year, all MSMS juniors prepare for and take the Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test (PSAT), also known as the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (NMSQT). This standardized test is administered by the College Board and tests students in four areas: reading, writing, language, and mathematics. To qualify as a semifinalist, students must score within the calculated threshold, which differs from state to state.

Across the nation, some 16,000 students are selected as semifinalists, and of those, about 15,000 are named finalists, qualifying them one of three scholarship awards: the National Merit $2,500 scholarship, a corporate-sponsored scholarship, or a college-sponsored scholarship. 

Being named semifinalist means different things to different students. Some feel this honor may help build confidence during the college application while others believe it will have no affect on them.

“[Being named National Merit Semifinalist] will probably help me with financial aid wherever I choose to go to college,” Martin said. “Even it doesn’t help me directly with scholarships, it could help me with getting accepted into certain colleges.”

“It’s a nice thing to have, but I don’t think it will be detrimental in any way because if I’m going to get rejected or accepted into any place, it won’t be because of my national merit status,” Ramkumar said. “It would be because of the character of my application.”

The next step for these semifinalists is to send an essay, a teacher’s recommendation letter and a high school transcript to the NMSC by early October. They must also take the SAT by December and submit their scores by January.

While these seniors prepare to compete for a finalist position, the junior class is bracing for their turn with the PSAT, which is set for Wednesday, Oct. 16.

Some juniors, such as Cameron Wright and Phillip Tran, feel apprehensive about it.

“I need to study more for it,” Wright said. “I think this is a good opportunity for scholarship money.”

“Honestly, it seems pretty intimidating how you can only take it once,” Tran said. ”But that motivates me more to work harder to bring my max potential for this test.”

Others, like Shelby Tisdale, are trusting their previous PSAT scores to be their confidence booster.

“I did really well on my PSAT practice test, and I don’t want to say I’m too confident about it because that could mess me up,” Tisdale said. “I feel like if I can do as well as I did last year or on the practice test, then it would open up a lot of opportunities for me.”

Several semifinalists prioritize studying and resting, advising juniors to do the same.

“Get a prep book,” Tsang said. “The Black PSAT Prep Book is probably the best one out there. Get lots of sleep before it. There’s a lot of great opportunities you can get from this.”

“Take a deep breath, and rely on the knowledge that you know,” Fallon said. “And don’t fall asleep halfway through [the test].”

The NMSC will be announcing the finalists in April 2020.