Arcadia Students Qualify as National Merit Scholarship Semifinalists


Arcadia High 2022 National Merit Scholarship Semifinalists: (Alphabetical order by last name) Ruth Berkun, Stella Koh, Kailin Liu, Andrea Lou, Sanjith Menon, Nelly Segimoto, Ryan Sun, Jose Tandoc, Ethan Wong, Sonia Zhang, and Ashley Zhao.

Michelle So, Staff Writer

Every year, the Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test//National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT) is taken by juniors around the nation. The test is an assessment for college readiness, covering the subjects reading, writing, and math. A total of 139 questions are allotted between the three topics, and with just 2 hours and 45 minutes to complete them all, getting full marks is no easy feat. Out of the 1.5 million students that take the test, top 3-4% scorers are deemed Commended Scholars. However, those with results in the top 1% are considered semifinalists.

In the last 30 years, the National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) has recognized 660 Arcadia High students as National Merit Scholarship semifinalists. The National Merit Scholarship Program’s website says the program seeks to “honor individual students who show exceptional academic ability and potential for success in rigorous college studies.”

This year, 11 AHS students qualified as semifinalists.

They are (alphabetically by last name): 

  • Ruth Berkun
  • Stella Koh
  • Kailin Liu
  • Andrea Lou
  • Sanjith Menon
  • Nelly Segimoto
  • Ryan Sun
  • Jose Tandoc
  • Ethan Wong
  • Sonia Zhang
  • Ashley Zhao 

These seniors have joined the ranks of 16,000 semifinalists selected around the U.S. Throughout the next few months, finalists will be revealed through the NMSC’s media pages. The participants then submitted an application detailing their academic participation, leadership roles, commitment towards community, and honors/rewards received. Winners will be chosen by high school counselors and college admission officers who will review the contenders’ resumes carefully. The finalists will each be given a prize of $2,500, as well as be eligible to a plethora of scholarships offered by colleges and universities.

Senior Andrea Lou is one of the PSAT/NMSQT semifinalists this year. She said that she was both “happy and also surprised” when she heard the news. 

Senior Stella Koh, another 2021 semifinalist, was equally shocked when her grade counselor Ms. Gina Zavala broke the news.

“I was nodding and smiling and then I was like ‘Wait, what,’” Stella said. 

Considering the difficulty of scoring highly on the PSAT/NMSQT, it’s no wonder that AHS continues to rank in the top 1% of schools nationwide. A cumulation of great teachers, resources, and a competitive environment puts AHS in’s top 30 California Public High Schools. Moreover, the school has been deemed a Gold Medal School three times in the past few years.

“I think it can be agreed that AHS has a comparatively more rigorous academic environment than most other schools,” said Stella. “I’ll admit that this has created negative expectations, like ‘having’ to take a bajillion AP classes. But I try not to get affected by those aspects and focus more on friendlier academic competition:”

Andrea agreed, saying “I think AHS really pushes us to take harder classes and prepare for the [PSAT] early.”. She also credits some of her success to the “multiple choice practice tests [given] in AP English Language and Composition.”

The class, both beloved and feared by the students that take it, is a great prep course for the PSAT and SAT. Writing analytical essays teaches students to keep a keen eye out for evidence in the PSAT readings.

If you are a sophomore or freshman with academic aspirations, it’s never too early to start prepping for the PSAT. For freshmen, the PSAT 8/9 can be taken at school for a small test fee. While for sophomores, the PSAT 10 is administered by the school, free of charge. (The numbers succeeding “PSAT” serve to indicate the grade level the PSAT is intended for) Preparing early can improve your scores for the PSAT/NMSQT and the SAT. Studying as you would for the actual PSAT will allow you to get ready mentally and emotionally for when it really counts.

While the list of finalists has yet to be announced, the two seniors definitely have a lot on their plate. They are both juggling plenty of AP classes while finding time to write college applications. Andrea is leaning towards Bioengineering as a major while Stella is split between Applied Math, Actuarial Science, or Finance.

As for her advice, Andrea said, “Don’t worry about it too much, take your time, and just make sure to get enough sleep the day before.”


Photo courtesy of AUSD