National Merit Scholars: Cavalier Edition

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Adriana Meijaard

Yanik Ariste (left) and Leila Iskandarani (right) are proud National Merit Semifinalists

The National Merit Scholarship Program (NMSP) is a competition that recognizes academic achievement in the form of scholarships and recommendations that help with college. Of the 1.6 million entrants to the NMSP, two Gables seniors have been announced as semifinalists. Congratulations to Yanik Ariste and Leila Iskandarani!

During the fall of junior year, students are given the opportunity to take the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT).  The score received on this exam determines qualification as a semifinalist, after which the NMSP narrows down students with the top scores, taken from SAT as well, to be finalists. Of the 1.6 million registered students, only 50,000 will receive recognition and a recommendation letter to two colleges of their choice. 36,000 of those 50,000 are chosen based on their scores over the past years and placed in a category called ‘Commended Students.’ Of those 36,000, only the pool of those who qualify as semifinalists is cut to 15,000 students nationally. Finally, NMSP verifies U.S. citizenship enrollment in high school. Once a semifinalist becomes a finalist, the National Merit Scholarship Corporation awards the student one of 3 types of scholarships: National Merit ($2,500), corporate-sponsored merit scholarship awards (the amount depends on how much the corporation wants to give) and college-sponsored merit scholarship awards (the amount depends on the college the student will be attending).

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When I found out, I was ecstatic. I was actually not expecting it at all. The process consisted of both a student and counselor portion.”

— senior Yanik Ariste

The NMSP derives what is called a “Selection Index” from the score a student obtains on the PSAT. This index determines eligibility for recognition as a “Commended Student” and later Semifinalist on a state-by-state basis. The Selection Index ranges between 48 and 228 while the PSAT score ranges from a 320 to 1520. A ‘good’ score can be considered between 4 different percentile levels: 70th percentile or higher. In 2015, 43,763 students in Florida reached the SAT College and Career Readiness Benchmark

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I took the PSAT my junior year and found out almost a year later that I was a semifinalist. To younger students, I’d suggest not stressing out about it. If you study for the SAT, you’ll do well on the PSAT.”

— senior Leila Iskandarani

The National Merit Scholarship Corporation is considered to be a top achievement in a high schoolers academic career. Congratulations once again Yanik Ariste and Leila Iskandarani on such a prestigious achievement.