29 seniors qualify as National Merit Semifinalists

October 15, 2010 — by Vivian LeTran

This year, 56 seniors qualified as commended scholars and 29 students as semifinalists in the National Merit Competition.

The National Merit Competition is based solely on how students do on the PSAT, which is taken in fall of junior year. Semifinalists, who are the top 1 percent of the all entries nationwide, will submit an application for the chance to become finalists. Students who become finalists will receive scholarship money if the student chooses a college that honors the National Merit recognition, according to assistant principal Brian Safine.

“[Becoming a National Merit semifinalist] has opened a lot more options for college. I’ve started looking at a wider selection of colleges that gives the National Merit scholarship,” said senior Carina Chu, a semifinalist. “Right now I’m hoping to get into UC Berkeley, but I’m also going to reach for a couple of Ivy League schools.”

Throughout the years, the number of SHS students who qualify as semifinalists has remain constant in the high 20s, with 27 seniors qualifying last year. However, in comparison to the scores of other high schools across the nation, the scores of Saratoga High students are extraordinary, said Safine.

“What’s most impressive is how Saratoga High School compares to the rest of the country in this regards. If it’s 1 percent of the total test takers in the United States, a school with a graduating class of 330 should have about 3.3 national merit semifinalists,” said Safine. “We have 29, which is about 10 times the number of an average high school. That is very, very remarkable.”

A recognition breakfast for semifinalists and commended students and their families will be held on Oct. 20.

“It’s nice that the National Merit recognition and corresponding breakfast gives us a chance [to take a break] and congratulate students who are doing really well,” said Safine. “Sometimes we just rush through the year, only thinking about what’s next. We need to take the time to stop and [take a minute] to realize what we have accomplished.”

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