Students achieve semifinalist title

Michelle Tutor, Managing Editor

Facing forward, the semifinalists posed for a picture in front of Plant High School. They are 9 out of the 16,000 semifinalists selected from an initial entrant pool of 1.6 million.

Nine students- seniors Alyssa Crocker, Lindsey Gabler, Ryan Hobson, Hamilton Jones, Lucy Morris, Tien Nguyen, Alixandra Rubin, Hayden Watson and Junhao Zhang- became National Merit Scholarship semifinalists Sept. 17.  

The National Merit Scholarship is an academic competition based on the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT) scores to receive various scholarships. In order to participate in the program, students were required to take the PSAT/NMSQT during their junior year of high school. Those with the highest PSAT/NMSQT scores qualified for semifinalist status. 

“I just did a lot of practice beforehand, making sure to know the structure of the exam before taking the exam,” Zhang said. “There are also a lot of specific ways to get to the answers of some question that you can just remember and figure out.” 

To progress to finalist, participants must submit a completed NMSC Online Scholarship Application (OSA) and confirm their PSAT/NMSQT performance with scores from the SAT or ACT. High academic performance is expected to be maintained throughout senior year. 

“If I become a finalist, I will maximize the opportunities given through the merit program to succeed,” Morris said. “I see it helping me stay motivated in my future schoolwork because the recognition shows me that I have the potential to achieve greater things.” 

 Nguyen found out she had qualified as a semifinalist when a friend texted her a congratulatory message. 

“I was totally freaking out and I had to ask my friend like twice to make sure I won it,” Nguyen said. “I pulled up the Tampa Bay Times and I saw my name. I literally sat in my driveway for five minutes looking at the page because I couldn’t believe I actually qualified.”