[Video] Seven MSD seniors announced as National Merit Semifinalists

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MSD is home to seven National Merit semifinalists this year.

Kate Becker

Seven seniors from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have qualified as semifinalists in this year’s National Merit Scholarship Program (NMSP) by having some of the best PSAT scores across the nation. These students are now eligible to become finalists in the competition and have the chance to win scholarships from the $31 million fund and/or receive the Merit Scholarship title. 

Every school year, around 1.5 million high school students in the U.S. apply to the NMSP’s National Merit Scholarship by filling out a program entry form and submitting their PSAT results. Of the original group of applicants, only about 16,000 students are chosen based on how high their PSAT scores are as semifinalists. The PSAT National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) Selection Index ranges from 48 to 228, and the average PSAT NMSC score to qualify is 215. Students must undergo a long process to apply to become a finalist.

This year, seniors Jordyn Addesso, Tobiah Bower, Daria Leonova, Sarah Mohammed, Asher Perez, Ian Walsh and Christine Yared have been announced as MSD’s National Merit semifinalists. 

“I prepared for the PSAT by taking practice tests and reviewing the Official College Board SAT book,” Mohammed said.

The students were notified by Principal Michelle Kefford that they had qualified.

“I was very excited [to hear I was a National Merit semifinalist] because I had been looking forward to when the news would come out,” Perez said.

Another Merit semifinalist, Christine Yared, is following in the footsteps of her older sister, Florence Yared, who was also a National Merit semifinalist two years prior in 2019.

“One of my biggest motivations for becoming a semifinalist was because my sister was one two years ago, and the administration kept mixing us up and thinking that I was the semifinalist instead of her,” Yared said. “Now I’m excited to actually be a semifinalist, like my sister was.” 

Now that the seven seniors have received their titles, they must go through the long process of becoming eligible for the finalist spots. Semifinalists must submit a detailed scholarship application with the help of their school counselor, including their academic record, participation in school and community activities, demonstration of leadership abilities, employment and all honors and awards received. 

Applicants will also need to provide a recommendation letter from a high school official who would like to endorse them. After they complete those steps, the students must also write an essay and take the SAT or ACT to reinforce their PSAT scores.

“The process for becoming a finalist is relatively simple. I have to fill out an online application with my academic record, a recommendation and an essay,” Mohammed said. “My next step is to complete this and submit it, so I am working on the application as much as I can.” 

Over the next few months, the seniors will be working on getting ready for the SAT and ACT exams and preparing their written requirements in order to be considered for the finalist spots.

Five of MSD's seven National Merit Semifinalists for 2020 talk about what the award means to them. Video by Sasha Lechtenstein and Dana Masri