2020 National Merit Semifinalists announced


Jtk13 / CC BY-SA

This year, higher than recent years, 21 MSMS students were named as National Merit Semifinalists.

Kate McElhinney, News Editor

A little over 11 months have passed since the senior class endured the PSAT in October of 2019. By now, most have forgotten about the Twitter memes and the many students who refused to check their scores. However, all the memories resurfaced on Wednesday, Sept. 9, when Director for Academic Affairs Kelly Brown released the names of the National Merit Semifinalists from MSMS. The list is as follows:

Ian Avant

Luke Bowles

Colby Brown

Max Dobbs

Jackson Flowers

James Harden

Bryce Harrison

David Jelinek

Manitejus Kotikalapudi

Nathan Lechner

Michael Lu

Zach Medlin

Anh Nguyen

Mason Pettit

William Shy

Jack Standard

Shelby Tisdale

Muneebah Umar

Nina Vo

Aaron Wan

Cameron Wright

While some semifinalists’ only preparations were sharpening their pencils, others studied ahead of time. Muneebah Umar, one of the semifinalists, described her preparations for the PSAT.

“I spent the summer before junior year studying for the SAT. I completely changed how I approached each section, specifically the English section,” Umar said. “This was mainly because I wanted to see if I would be better at [the SAT] than the ACT, and I knew that I needed to take the PSAT.”

In contrast, semifinalist Tejus Kotikalapudi made almost no preparations for the PSAT, as he had taken it before his junior year.

“I had already taken the PSAT before and I pretty much knew what I was getting into, so I didn’t really stress too much going into the test,” Kotikalapudi said. “I was of course happy that I was selected, but I pretty much knew I was gonna make it when I got my score because the Mississippi cutoff for National Merit is relatively low. My parents were ecstatic, though, and they got me and my brother some Buffalo wings.”

To become a National Merit Semifinalist, students must score in the top percentile on the PSAT in their state. Scores vary, but semifinalists generally score in the top 1% nationally. This year is one of MSMS’s most successful years yet for the PSAT, boasting 21 semifinalists.

National Merit Semifinalists will have the opportunity to begin the National Merit Finalist application. Students must submit a personal essay and a copy of their transcript, and finalists will be announced in February. Becoming a National Merit Finalist opens many doors for students, including a wide array of scholarships and awards.

Umar also conveyed her excitement upon reading the announcement, as well as her hopes for becoming a finalist.

“I was really excited about getting it,” Umar said. “My dad woke me up when he saw the list, and it was really satisfying to have my hard work pay off. I’ll definitely be applying for finalist.”

Similarly, Max Dobbs expressed her surprise and excitement upon being selected to be a semifinalist.

“I didn’t expect to be a National Merit Semifinalist. When I received the email announcing who they were, my body froze, and I crossed my fingers before opening it cautiously. When I saw my name on the list, I nearly broke down,” Dobbs said. “I put so much work into my PSAT, and seeing it pay off after so many disappointments this year feels too amazing to be true.”