National Merit semifinalists

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Isaac McKenna, a National Merit semifinalist from Community. He will not know until spring if he is moving on to the next stage.

Nina van der Velde, a student at Community and National Merit semifinalist. Nina did not spend much time prepping for the PSAT but instead worked hard in school.

  “Winning this award feels amazing, it’s definitely a huge honor,” said Isaac McKenna, a senior at Community High School (CHS) who is a semifinalist for the National Merit Scholar award. He is one of eight semifinalists this year from CHS. This is a difficult achievement because it requires you to score in the top one percent of PSAT scores in your state. Receiving the scholarship of $2,500 takes a lot of effort. 

“To get to the finals, you have to submit an application with your grades, SAT scores, a personal essay and letter of recommendation so it’s sort of like applying to college,” McKenna said. “I won’t know until March or April whether or not I move on to the final stage where I would win the prize.” Currently, these seniors are working hard to finish and submit their applications. It is difficult to be chosen for the scholarship because only about 50 percent of the finalists will win. But even if they do not get the scholarship, it is still a huge honor and will look great on college applications. 

        “To prepare for the PSAT I probably just did some Khan Academy, but I didn’t really do too much,” said Nina van der Velde, another semifinalist from CHS. Both her and McKenna say they did not do a lot of studying for this test; they came to school and worked hard. However, lots of students study hard to try to achieve the award. There are many practice tests, work books, and Khan Academy quizzes that students can use to practice. 

To have a chance at getting to the semifinalist stage you simply just have to take the PSAT as a junior in October. To achieve the semifinalist honor, the National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) looks at your PSAT scores and grades them on a scale of 234 basing each section on a scale of eight to 38 then multiplying them by two. The cut off for getting to the semifinalist is around 218 on the 234 scale, which is around a 36 or 37 on each section. Out of the 1.6 million people who take the PSAT nationwide, only one percent reach the semifinalist stage and half of that actually get the scholarship. CHS has eight people who have gotten to the semifinalist stage and the AAPS has 78, which is the highest amount of students in the state. “Even as a National Merit Semifinalist, if you get it or not, these tests don’t define you as a person,” said Brian WIlliams counselor at CHS.“They are important and they can do some cool things but by no means can these tests define you as a person.”