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31 Seniors Qualify to be National Merit Semifinalists

By TANVI BARGAJE and SKY REYNOLDS

Staff Writers

31 students from University High School qualified for the National Merit Scholarship semifinalists, scoring in the top one percent of test-takers nationwide.

These students are part of the 16,000 program semifinalists across the country, and make up 1% of about 1.5 million students who took the Preliminary SAT (PSAT/NMSQT) in October 2018. Seniors across the nation have the opportunity to continue in the competition for some 7,600 National Merit Scholarships worth more than $31 million awarded.

“Truthfully, I took this test in the hopes of receiving a scholarship,” semifinalist Emily Fukada said, “While I feel honored to be recognized for my performance on this test, the true reward is getting the opportunity to seek out more meaningful and fulfilling measures of achievement in college.” 

National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) offers three scholarships. The National Merit Scholarship offers $2,500 single payment scholarships awarded to 7,500 finalists. The Corporate-sponsored Merit Scholarship Award offers $500 to $1,000 awarded by corporate sponsors to students. The College-sponsored Merit Scholarship award offers $500 to $2,000 by sponsor college officials who select winners of their awards from finalists who have been accepted.

National Merit Graph

Despite a decline in National Merit semifinalists from the 2018-19 school year, UHS still leads the district with 31 semifinalists.

UHS has had the highest number of National Merit semifinalists throughout all schools in the Irvine Unified School District (IUSD) since 2015. This year, Northwood High School has 29 Semifinalists, Irvine High School has 9 and Woodbridge High School has 8. 

“At Uni, I feel a strong sense of community and truly feel that the students value their education highly,” Fukada said, “I think that this community, in part, encourages many students to strive for high achievements.”

“I think it shows Uni students’ and teachers’ continuing dedication to academics,” semifinalist Kayla Lihardo said.

However, the number of semifinalists represents a substantial decline from the 39 students last year and shows another decrease from the 36 students two years ago. 

“Uni only has consistently higher numbers of finalists because the AP classes offered at Uni tend to be more difficult than the exams themselves,” semifinalist Jeongwon Cho said, “While I’m proud that our school has strong representation in test scores, I think that makes it easy to fall into an attitude of assuming Uni students are intellectually superior to those of other schools.”

“The students here are very disciplined and structured and take the time to study or get tutoring,” College and Career Counselor Mrs. Gatlin said, “I know you guys take a lot of the practice tests we offer, even the ones that aren’t through College Board.”

The semifinalists this year are: Fukada, Cho, Lihardo, Samuel Alber, Ji Won Chae, James Chen, Joy Chen, Sophia Chen, Daniel Chou, Neel Choudhary, Dylan Du, Anna Fruman, Aidan Garde, Sam Ghahremani, William Huang, Alexis Kim, Pooja Kowshik, Hunter Kroll, Jack Liu, Katie Liu, Brian Lou, Eric Lu, Tiffany Lu, Katherine McPhie, Preetham Pangaluru, Ritik Singh, Jason Song, Casey Stanford, Anivrit Subramaniam, Andrew Swanson, and Nyle Wong.

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