By BILL ZAN
On September 16, 48 University High School (UHS) students qualified as National Merit semifinalists, up from 45 last year.
With this number of semifinalists UHS continues its trend as the highest qualifying Irvine Unified School District (IUSD) school. IUSD has a total of 110 semifinalists with 48 from UHS, 30 from Northwood, 13 from Irvine and 19 from Woodbridge.
Of the 16,000 nationwide semifinalists that the National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) announced, 110 attend an IUSD school. These students scored an average of 222 points on the PSAT, this year’s cutoff for California.
Lohit Velegapudi (Sr.), a semifinalist, said, “I’m happy about being a semifinalist. I think being in a state of Zen helps for the PSAT and every standardized test.”
The NMSC, created in 1955, helps students receive scholarships based on their academic performance in school. The organization’s goal is to “identify and honor academically talented U.S. high school students, [and] to provide efficient and effective scholarship program management for organizations that wish to sponsor college undergraduate scholarships”.
Jerin Tomy (Sr.), a UHS semifinalist, believes that UHS’s success comes from “hard work and dedication.” He also said he felt intimidated by IUSD’s overall success because it meant “competition for college admissions.”
According to Ms. Emily Pennington (College and Career Center), “Students who score above a certain score on the PSAT automatically become semifinalists. They apply to be finalists, and if they are finalists they’re opened up to scholarships from National Merit, scholarships from schools and scholarships from organizations. Basically, scholarships they otherwise wouldn’t be able to get. Uni doesn’t have the highest number of semifinalists but many schools are happy to have one or two or three semifinalists so we are definitely up there in the rankings.”
The semifinalists will compete for one of 15,000 National Merit Finalist spots by submitting a written essay, SAT scores, a letter of recommendation from a teacher and transcripts. The National Merit Scholarship Program awards three types of scholarships: the National Merit scholarship, which is worth $2,500, the Corporate-Sponsored Merit Scholarship which ranges from $500-$10,000 and the College-Sponsored Merit Scholarship worth $500-$2,000 per year.
Once the students receive scholarships, they must agree to attend the college sponsoring their College-Sponsored Merit Scholarships. Half the finalists are named Merit Scholars and receive the National Merit Scholarships. There are also 1,200 Special Scholarship recipients who are outstanding non-finalist students but meet their sponsors’ eligibility criteria.
Jai Agrawal (Sr.), another UHS semifinalist, said, “I’m proud of Uni’s success on the PSAT. Even though prep schools like Elite were helpful, I think the majority of our success was due to our school’s great teachers and community. I was really motivated to do well on the test.”