The National Merit Scholarship is a high-achievement undergraduate scholarship that acknowledges students with high PSAT/NMSQT scores. At Mt. Hebron, seniors Chase Blanchette, Brendan Kim, and Ben Snyder, are finalists for this scholarship.
Out of the country, 16,000 students made it the semi-finalist stage. Out of those students, only 15,000 become finalists, and only 8,600 finalists will be awarded the scholarship of $2,500.
Maryland in particular has high standards for the National Merit Scholarship, requiring students to score higher on the PSAT than other states. For comparison, Maryland requires a selection index- the standards in which the National Merit Scholarship is ranked- of 223, while the average in the US is 218.
With such high-stakes, becoming a finalist alone is a big achievement. Blanchette said, “Honestly I’m happy to be a finalist and [I’m] just hoping to actually get one of the scholarships offered because they don’t give money to all the finalists.”
Kim agreed, “I feel very proud and honored to be a national merit finalist. I feel like the hard work that I put in through my high school career finally paid off.”
Snyder stated, “I am very honored to be a national merit finalist. It feels great to have all of my studying for the SAT pay off and potentially to help me pay for college.”
In terms of how they prepared for the actual test, the finalists have varying responses.
Blanchette’s preparation was more laid back, claiming, “the only real way to prepare for this scholarship is to study for the PSAT, and I didn’t really do that.” However, Blanchette, notes that, “Howard county lets us take [the PSAT] in 10th grade, which is nice because then I knew what to expect in 11th grade when my score actually mattered.”
Kim on the other hand notes that, “I had already studied for the SAT so I felt pretty prepared for the PSAT already. I also just prepared well in school and made sure not to procrastinate.”
Snyder also took the SAT prior to taking the PSAT, but he claims that, “for several months before the test, I just practiced question over question. For these types of standardized tests, I’ve found that pure repetition is far more helpful than studying concepts or reading textbooks.”
In addition to studying for the PSAT, becoming a finalist for the National Merit scholarship requires a bit of extra work.
Kim explains, “to become a finalist, one needs to send an essay, their academic transcript and extracurriculars. I just did what I loved in regards to extracurricular [activities].”
In terms of their advice for students wishing to become a finalist, the finalists all have something to say.