Suhaib Hasan and Leyton Dudley

Each October, every high school junior in the nation sits down to take one of the most challenging tests of their lives: the PSAT, also known as the practice SAT. This rigorous test is used to determine which students will qualify as semifinalists for the prestigious National Merit Scholarship (NMSC), awarded to the top half percent of students in the country.

When the results for the 2018 NMSC were released last week, Seminole High School dominated the list. Sixteen NMSC semifinalists came from Seminole High School, making SHS the top cultivator of semifinalists in Central Florida. In other words, SHS produced more NMSC finalists than any other school. Of these sixteen finalists, fifteen are students of the rigorous International Baccalaureate (IB) program.

“It’s bragging rights all around for the student, our high school, and colleges. We have two excellent magnet programs with Health Academy and IB,” said Ms. Donna Noll, IB coordinator. Noll also teaches the math portion of SHS’ annual PSAT crash course.

Among the most difficult scholarships to qualify for, each student’s PSAT score index is determined by doubling the sum of their Reading, Writing, Language, and Math test score. The qualifying score for each year is determined by the performance of students across the state. Florida is a relatively competitive state, with a qualifying score of 219. In contrast, the least competitive state is Wyoming, with a cutoff score of 212.

The sixteen seniors were called to principal Dr. Connie Collins’ office to be congratulated on their achievement.

“I was really happy and felt really honored to be in the top 1 percent of the nation,” said semifinalist Lu Lu. “It means a lot to me to have this scholarship because all of my hard work paid off and it will ease the financial burden of college.”

After qualifying, the seniors must apply to become National Merit Finalists by mid-October. This application involves writing an essay, building a resume, and soliciting a recommendation letter from their guidance counselors. If selected as Finalists, the students will have a high chance of attending college for free, or a reduced cost, in the state of Florida. Additionally, several out-of-state colleges are attracted to National Merit Finalist applicants.

“[Being a national merit semifinalist means] that if I go to UCF, they would pretty much pay for my tuition. Anywhere I go, I will get a pretty large scholarship, which I’m thankful for,” said semi-finalist Elyse Larson.

The success of the class of 2019 has been celebrated across the school, particularly because it affirms the success of the new PSAT crash course, established to help prepare students for National Merit.

“[We started the crash course] to maximize the potential for kids that wouldn’t have access to prep courses,” said Mrs. Kelly Meahl, who teaches the reading portion of the crash course. “It used to be that National Merit used to be for kids that are able to pay $800 for a Kaplan course, and not every kid could do that. I’m trying to bring it to a wider group of people.”

The following SHS seniors are semi-finalists for National Merit:

Alex Bell, Caitlin Chen, Jack Dellenger, Vishal Dubey, Mong-En Ip, Karthik Jarugula, Malavika Kannan, Elyse Larson, Evelyn Larson, Lu Lu, Cyriac Manjaly, Amixadai Miranda-Hernandez, Anderson Moonguaklang, David Mowbray, Withanage Perera, and Kenni Sukhadia.