By Julia Kim
Video by Taylor Vowell
On Oct. 13, freshman, sophomores and juniors tackled the PSAT while the seniors enjoyed the first of many late arrivals which prominently translates to additional hours of sleep. Although some students struggled while others excelled each class took the exam with a different purpose in mind.
Juniors took the exam in order to qualify for the National Merit Scholarship, focused on scoring at least 215, the expected requirement for qualification as a semifinalist. Sophomores undertook a practice test meant to diagnose their problems and highlight their strengths and weaknesses. Freshmen joined the sophomores this year in preparing for the PSAT with an additional test to assess their skills, a change from last year.
Students prepared for this exam with countless practice tests in practice books and those administered by organizations. Adequate memorization of vocabulary and attendance at tutoring centers marked the agendas of many individuals.
“I attended the SAT classes here at the high school,” junior Jeanne Feng said. “The strategies they provided were very helpful.”
Students were required to score approximately 200 to achieve a commended status. Although students with commended scores are not registered for the National Merit Scholarship competition, they may become candidates for a variety of scholarships offered by corporations. To be acknowledged as a semifinalist, juniors had to pass a set number, a score differing in every state and year.
“I took about five PSAT practice tests,” junior Angela Song said. “I really want to score higher than 216, so I qualify for National Merit.”
Last year, juniors needed to score roughly 215 to be considered a semifinalist in Texas. Twenty students received this recognition in the senior class while 13 barely missed the mark, making the total number of commended students 33. Requirements for being a finalist include U.S. citizenship or lawful permanent residency, full endorsement for the finalist standing by the high school principal, very high academic performance in high school and confirmation of scores by reporting current SAT scores.
“I was aiming for 220 because I knew about the National Merit Program beforehand,” semifinalist Annie Abraham said. “It is a secure score compared to previous [requirements for National Merit].”
As a finalist in the competition, the student is eligible for a National Merit Scholarship. Winners are chosen from this group based on an evaluation of the finalist’s academic record, information from the school, written recommendation, activities, leadership and essay.
There are three divisions of scholarships: National Merit $2,500 Scholarships, corporate-sponsored Merit Scholarship awards and college-sponsored Merit Scholarship awards.
Regardless of background, the program awards select finalists on a state representational basis for the single payment scholarships of $2,500. The corporate-sponsored awards are granted to finalists of the company’s choice, and they can range from one-time rewards to renewable four year scholarships. Universities also reward finalists who have selected that college as their first choice. These also include renewable scholarships to up to four years of undergraduate study.
African American students may participate in both the National Merit Program and the National Achievement Program. These students can qualify for recognition in both programs but only receive one monetary reward. At CHS, two students, Damilola Salako and Gabriel Samuel-Ezeugoh, were awarded with this honor.