Four seniors from MSD are selected as National Merit Semifinalists


Photo courtesy of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School

National Merit Scholarship Semifinalists: Mirza Zuhayr, Zachary Weissman, Veronica Melei, guidance director, Michelle Kefford, principal, Lexi Schwartzberg, and Raegan DiRenzo pose for a picture together.

Brynn Schwartz, Associate Editor-in-Chief

Notified in early September, four seniors from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have been selected as National Merit Semifinalists. The seniors include Zach Weissman, Lexi Schwartzberg, Raegan DiRenzo and Mirza Zuhayr.

“I was very shocked [when I received the news], but at the same time, I was so proud of myself. I was so excited that I got this opportunity and couldn’t wait to tell my family,” DiRenzo said.

The National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC), founded in 1995, runs the National Merit Scholarship Program every year. Roughly 16,000 students are selected as semifinalists every year to compete for roughly 7,500 National Merit Scholarships, worth $2,500 each.

To qualify to receive a National Merit scholarship, a student must take the PSAT/NMSQT in their junior year. According to the NMSC, students can determine if they meet the entry requirements by looking for an asterisk within their PSAT/NMSQT Score Report. If an asterisk is present, one does not qualify to become a semifinalist. If there is no asterisk present, one has qualified to be a National Merit Semifinalist.

Some of the requirements include being enrolled in the last year of high school and have enrolled, or are planning to enroll, in a college full time. Students must also take the PSAT in their third year in high school in October; typically, this is a student’s junior year. Florida’s Class of 2022 cutoff score is 217 and it’s recommended that you aim to get a Selection Index score 2-5 points higher than this cutoff score because the qualifying scores can fluctuate a little from year to year.

“Based on the NMSQT selection index and how my score fell within it, I suspected that I might qualify, but I was still pleasantly surprised when it actually happened,” Schwartzberg said.

The NMSQT selection index was made available through MSD in September.

This year’s MSD semifinalist students participated in an abundance of SAT preparation, which they say significantly helped them in scoring well on their PSAT. Educational resources such as the College Board and several other organizations offer PSAT preparation.

“I would tell anyone hoping to become a National Merit Semifinalist that it is important to be familiar with the test and to practice the types of questions you usually miss,” DiRenzo said.

These four selected students now have the option to qualify to become a National Merit Finalist. Nearly 95% of semifinalists are eligible to be finalists; however, the ultimate decision lies within their submission. All winners of the large prize of $2,500 are chosen from the group of finalists, along with a title of “National Merit Scholar.”

The requirements to qualify for the coveted title include submitting an application, an essay, a recommendation by a school official and follow-up SAT or ACT scores as a confirmation of their previous PSAT scores.

“Prepping for the test helps a lot, but at the end of the day, don’t be too hard on yourself if you don’t become a semifinalist. There is so much more that defines you besides test scores,” Schwartzberg said.

National Merit Finalists will be revealed in February of 2022.