Congratulations to the 11 Class of 2023 National Merit Semifinalists!

Congratulations to the 11 Class of 2023 National Merit Semifinalists!

Sophia Li, Sports Editor

The National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) program, founded in 1995, receives around 1.5 million yearly applicants. Arcadia High School (AHS) congratulates 11 exceptional seniors– Ian Chan, Kevin Hu, Cassie Kao, Weber Lin, Tin Nguyen, Carolyn Sun, Ashley Te, Nathan Vuong, Avari Wang, Phoebe Wang, and Stephanie Wang – for their outstanding achievements in becoming National Merit Semifinalists. 

This prestigious academic competition for recognition and scholarships entices juniors across the U.S. to join, as some 50,000 students annually, with the highest PSAT/NMSQT Selection index scores receive the honor of becoming a Commended Student or a Semifinalist. NMSC provides scholarships with around 340 business organizations and institutions that honor the nation’s scholastic champions, in pursuit of academic excellence. 

On Sept. 14, the NMSC’s 68th annual program announced its Class of 2023 list of semifinalist high school students. These outstanding students will advance in the National Merit Scholarship Program, where they will compete for a share of about 7,520 scholarships worth almost $28 million

AHS continues its 29-year streak of having a double-digit number of students in the National Merit Scholarship Program. These excellent students listed above are among the top 1%, if not less than 1%, of the nation. In the last 29 years, the NMSC has honored and recognized 671 AHS students, and these students listed above have accomplished an amazing feat and added their name to that list. 

“I am absolutely thrilled and honored to be recognized as a national merit scholar,” senior Phoebe Wang stated. “I’ve always been proud and diligent concerning my academics, so I feel fulfilled that my efforts have borne fruit. I’m glad to be able to represent Arcadia on a national level and I’m immensely grateful for all the support I’ve gotten from teachers, friends, and family.”

“I feel very lucky! And really proud,” senior Carolyn Sun shared. “Mainly I was just really excited to tell my grandpa; it makes me really happy to tell him good news. He gets so proud of me, and that makes me so happy. I’m super proud of everyone else who made it as a Semifinalist!”

Not only does Sun feel excited about her accomplishments and shared them with her loved ones, but the process has been an enjoyable one as well. 

“I’m grateful to meet so many hardworking peers, and I really think that’s been instrumental in everything I’ve learned participating in various events with them. It’s been super cool to see many of my friends share this accomplishment as well!” Sun said. 

To qualify, students take the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test, which helps the organization gauge the top 1% of high school students who may advance into the next round. To become a Finalist, a Semifinalist and a high school official will submit a detailed scholarship application, which includes the Semifinalist’s participation in school and service activities, academic record, leadership, and honors/awards received. Students must also write an essay and be recommended by a high school official, as well as take a second test, the ACT or SAT, to confirm their skill.

Studying for the PSAT is no easy feat, but Phoebe Wang and semifinalist Weber Lin have a few words of advice for upcoming students from their own learning journey. 

Studying for the PSAT, a test very similar to the SAT, proved to be beneficial for Wang: “Most of my studying for the PSAT came from SAT practice, actually. I’ve always been pretty strong in math, so it was more English that was more difficult for me since it can be greatly affected by your general knowledge. Overall, I used many prep books and Khan Academy to brush up on those skills,” Phoebe Wang explained.

“I would suggest utilizing the SAT Blackbook. Give yourself two months to read all eight hundred pages, and what really helps is that on the College Board website they have several exams to practice with,”  Lin shared. “What I don’t recommend is buying Princeton Review or whatever they’re marketing because the questions don’t really match with what’s written on the PSAT or SAT so the best thing you can do is search up past tests!” 

In terms of the application and being recommended by a high school official, Sun is thankful for all the support she received along the way at AHS: “My counselor, Ms. An, has been super helpful and supportive. I’m really grateful to her, and the rest of the counseling department. They celebrated us so warmly, encouraged us to be proud of ourselves, and made us feel super deserving of being semifinalists!”

In a pool of more than 16,000 Semifinalists, around 15,000 are expected to become a Finalist, which will allow them to be selected to win a National Merit Scholarship.

As far as the scholarships go, there are three main types: National Merit $2500 Scholarships, corporate-sponsored merit scholarship awards, and college-sponsored merit scholarships.

Every finalist competes for the National Merit $2500 Scholarship, which is awarded on a state representational basis. College admission and high school counselors select students without the consideration of family circumstances, college of choice, or major/career plans. 

Corporate-sponsored merit scholarships are awarded by sponsors who pick certain students who are family of employers, residents of a community close to the organization, or students with career plans the sponsor wants to encourage. 

Lastly, college-sponsored merit scholarships are given through college admission officers when a student has been accepted into a college, and has already let NMSC know of the deadlines of their college/university. 

In short, becoming a National Merit Scholarship finalist, and even semifinalist, is something one should be immensely proud of. It takes years of hard work, dedication, and diligence to one’s education for one to achieve such a high level of mastery. 

Wang reflects on her accomplishments in a sincere note: “Being a finalist has several benefits and is truly a privilege I hope to have. On an honest note, the scholarship and title itself are tangible rewards. But, I think it’s very fulfilling and uplifting in other ways, too — consider pride, confidence, and reinforcement of diligence. My family has been very proud that I have received this honor and I am too.”

Last but not least, let’s wish our fellow Apache students the best of luck as they are notified of their results between April and July. Keep an eye out for the winners and provide everybody with your support! 

Photo courtesy of AHS