Twenty UHS Seniors Announced as National Merit Semifinalists

Juliet Curtis, Staff Writer 

Twenty seniors from UHS are among the nation’s 16,000 National Merit Scholarship (NMS) semifinalists, earning them a chance to receive a $2,500 scholarship. This decision, announced on September 9th, was based off of student scores on the 2019 PSAT.

While UHS students took preparative steps and PSAT practice tests beforehand, many felt pressure prior to the test day and during the testing experience.

“The PSAT in my opinion was much more stressful than the SAT since you only have one shot for the PSAT, and it gives you lots of opportunities for scholarships to schools,” senior Leyland Yang said.

The award, which places the semifinalists’ scores within one of the most competitive cutoffs in the nation, is a highly regarded distinction. 

“Hopefully, the scholarship will add to my application and help me pay for a part of my college tuition,” senior Joshua Nguyen said.

While the extracurricular activities that many students take part in have been postponed due to the pandemic, altering the composition of many college applications, the prospect of a merit scholarship is supporting students by adding to their accomplishments. 

“Finding out I was named semifinalist was definitely great news for me, especially because of how some of my summer plans were canceled because of COVID,” Nguyen said.

In May, the University of California, the nation’s largest and most competitive public school system, announced that the pandemic had caused the adoption of a “test-blind” process when considering student applications.  The recognition of NMS semifinalists has helped ease some students’ concerns over their applications, caused by the UC’s announcement.

“I am not regretting the hours I put into SAT now,” Nguyen said. “Especially since UCs are not accepting any standardized test scores, being named National Merit Semifinalist will indicate that I did well on the test without giving my scores”.

Despite the change in admissions policies brought on by current circumstances, UHS students feel proud of their efforts.

“Since I prepared really hard for the SAT, doing well on this really reflected the hard work I put in the summer before and showed to me that nothing comes without putting in the effort,” Yang said.

The full list of UHS National Merit Semifinalists includes Vardaan Bhat, Elaine Chao, Rohit Chawla, Claire Choi, Daniel Feng, Cheyenne Hwang, Seohyun Hwang, Ashley Kao, Meghana Krishnan, Jaden Lu, Arush Mehrotra, Joshua Nguyen, Nicholas Ouyang, Peter Park, Noah Pearlstein, Alex Qu, Kevin Thai, Leyland Yang, Natalie Zane, and Emily Zhang.