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The Student News Site of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School

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The Student News Site of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School

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Seniors+Piper+Bourne%2C+Serkan+Aymaz%2C+Arya+Gujarathi+and+Caleb+Hebert+pose+with+Principal+Michelle+Kefford+and+Head+Guidance+Counselor+Veronica+Melei.+The+four+seniors+were+announced+to+be+MSDs+National+Merit+Semifinalists%2C+based+on+their+PSAT+scores+from+October+of+their+junior+year.
Courtesy of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School
Seniors Piper Bourne, Serkan Aymaz, Arya Gujarathi and Caleb Hebert pose with Principal Michelle Kefford and Head Guidance Counselor Veronica Melei. The four seniors were announced to be MSD’s National Merit Semifinalists, based on their PSAT scores from October of their junior year.

Four National Merit Semifinalists announced from MSD

Nearly two weeks after the start of September, the five semifinalists of Parkland were listed in a news release by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation, a non-profit that has run the scholarship program every year since 1955. Four of the semifinalists listed are Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School seniors: Arya Gujarathi, Serkan Aymaz, Piper Bourne and Caleb Hebert. The semifinalists are scored in the top 1% of test takers on the PSAT.

The entry to become semifinalist revolves around the importance of PSAT scores, with indexes for each state listing the cutoff in which you can qualify for semifinalist.

“I was relieved because when I checked the index last year, I was close to the cutoff,” Herber said.

Herber received a 1450 on the PSAT. Both Aymaz and Gujarathi earned a 1460 which qualified them all for semifinalist. The cut off scores are dependent on each state; states like Wyoming and Montana let you qualify with a lower score whilst areas like Massachusetts and New Jersey demand higher scores.

“I found out about two weeks ago and honestly at first I thought I was in trouble because I was called down to Kefford’s office and they made it seem serious,” Aymaz said. “When I realized what it was really for I was filled with joy. I didn’t think I’d get [semifinalist] because my index was one point above the previous year’s index, but when they told me I got it I was extremely grateful.”

Gujarathi studied for the SAT over the summer before his junior year, allowing himself to get a head start, and took the PSAT in October of his junior year.

“The beginning of this month [we] were called to an office in guidance,” Gujarathi said. “ I saw some of the administrators … they congratulated us with a letter saying, ‘You have been named a National Merit Semifinalist in the state of Florida.’ We were all so happy.”

The award of being finalist not only comes with honor, but the organization gives them a chance for scholarships that are funded by corporate and college sponsors. This year the organization is offering 7,140 National Merit Scholarships worth nearly $28 million. This gives students scholarship money to pay for education opportunities in their near future.

According to the National Merit official website, “About half of the Finalists will win a National Merit Scholarship, earning the Merit Scholar title.”

The process to become a semifinalist involves quite a bit of preparation for the PSAT examinations.

“Definitely start studying as soon as possible,” Gujarathi said, “SATs really just a harder version of the PSAT so if you just do SAT stuff [and] get your score up, then not only will that help with National Merit, but that will also make you more prepared for the SAT overall.”

All of the semifinalists vouched for practice tests as their method of studying, for review and improving test timing. For MSD students, practice tests for study are available on College Board and on Bluebook. Free test prep is offered on MSD campus open to all students and Parkland residents.

For a semifinalist to qualify for finalist, they have to continue to meet all program entry requirements, be endorsed and recommended for the scholarship by the high school principal, have a complete record of courses taken and a record of high grades as well as information about the school’s curriculum and grading system and an application that involves writing an essay.

Finalists are notified in early February by mail at their home addresses.

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About the Contributor
Natalia Dzielnicka, Reporter
Natalia Dzielnicka is a freshman at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. She enjoys reading books, biking and helping out in Marjory's Garden.
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