National Merit Semi-finalists announced

Liza Rodler

It was announced recently that three seniors announced recently are among the roughly 16,000 high-scorers in the country awarded as National Merit semifinalists after taking the PSAT last year.

National Merit Scholarship Corporation announced the names of semifinalists Julien Kawawa-Beaudan, Dimiter Radonov, and Kainan Zhou on Sept. 14.

National Merit semifinalists are students scoring at least in the top 99th percentile of their state, but required scores vary from state to state and are not released by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation.

“There are some colleges that would give you large scholarships if you’re a semifinalist,” said counselor Randel Kelly. “The thing is, most people who are semifinalists are looking at very competitive academic colleges. For those colleges, they’re usually not giving out scholarships because half their class or more are National Merit semifinalists.”

Kelly said that because the difference between a score in the top percentile and a score qualifying as a semifinalist differ by a small number of points, only schools offering those scholarships actively seek out the semifinalists.

Both Kawawa-Beaudan and Radonov said that beyond completing the practice packet distributed upon registration, they did not study for the PSAT. Zhou said that he took advantage of the College Board’s “SAT Question of the Day” to get a feel for what the test would be like.

“Other than that, I think mostly just a good night’s rest and eating well the morning before,” Kawawa-Beaudan said. “That’s it really.”

Coincidentally, for the past four years three members of each senior class at Redwood have been recognized as semifinalists.

“It’s not part of our philosophy to just prepare people for the test, but that doesn’t mean that when it comes to admissions, our students aren’t equally competitive as those applying from schools where there are 12 to 15 National Merit students,” Kelly said.

Radonov said that he believes students’ grades and extracurricular activities are a better gauge of ability.

“I just think it’s important not to overemphasize test scores because at the end of the day, it’s just how you did on one particular day,” Radonov said.

Zhou, a transfer student from Novato High School, said he thinks that despite their faults, standardized test scores are helpful in balancing out the differences in grading standards from school to school.

National Merit semifinalists will now submit further applications to the National Merit Scholarship program. The top 15,000 semifinalists chosen will move on to become finalists and can receive a variety of scholarships ranging from $2,500 National Merit Scholarships to one of many corporate sponsored scholarships.