Seniors awarded National Merit Semifinalist distinction

Four students earned the Semifinalist title for the nationwide academic award

By Anahita Hurt, Online Co-Editor-in-Chief

Emily Kruse
Seniors Zuzu Melchor, Lex Moulton, Emily Guo and Aidan Pierce (not pictured) were awarded the National Merit Semifinalist distinction this year.

Four Lawrence High seniors — Lex Moulton, Emily Guo, Aidan Pierce, and Zuzu Melchor — were named National Merit Scholar semifinalists.

The National Merit Scholarship competition measures academic achievement in each state using the PSAT.

“It’s basically a nationwide competition involving standardized tests that are a selection method for scholarships of various different kinds,” Pierce said. “It has different rounds and I passed the first round of selections.”

To qualify as a National Merit Scholar, students only need to take the PSAT their junior year, and receive a score at or above their state’s cutoff score, which is based on the state’s average.

“You qualify with your score on the PSAT, which you take the fall of your sophomore year,” Moulton said. “The qualifying score is different for each state, so the qualifiers are representative of their state.”

Although they studied beforehand, after taking the test, all they could do was wait to see if they would become National Merit Semifinalists.

“After we took the PSAT, the organization released commended scholar cutoffs, and to become a semifinalist there was nothing else we needed to do, except wait almost a year for them to announce the higher semifinalist cutoffs,” Melchor said. “It took some studying but there was nothing I could do after I took the test!”

Moulton and Melchor received the same score, and got to share the experience of taking it together.

“Before taking the PSAT, I did not expect to make it to semifinals, and after taking it, I didn’t really know what to expect because the cutoffs change each year,” Melchor said. “I had the exact same score as one of my friends, and that made waiting for the results kind of fun!”

Guo was happy with her PSAT scores because they got her to the semifinals. But she’s also excited because most semifinalists become finalists.

“I’m pretty happy to be a semifinalist since I was pleased with my PSAT score,” Guo said. “I was pretty happy, especially since so many semifinalists become finalists. About 93% of semifinalists become finalists, so it’s more likely than not that I’ll become a finalist.”

Moulton is glad to be a semifinalist, but he doesn’t like the award, as he doesn’t see standardized tests as a good measure of merit or intelligence.

“I’m personally not a big fan of the National Merit award, because qualification is based solely on one standardized test score from your junior year of high school,” Moulton said. “I don’t think standardized tests are a good measure of a person’s ‘merit,’ and I don’t even think they show how intelligent a person is. I think that ‘National good/lucky at doing standardized tests semifinalist’ would be a better term. Of course, I’m still incredibly happy and proud of my accomplishment…”

Melchor is very excited, and is hopeful of becoming a finalist. Semifinals also helped to make her less stressed about applying for college.

“It was amazing to hear about semifinals! It made me a little bit less stressed about college applications,” Melchor said. “I don’t know whether I’ll make it to finals because information is not as widely available about it as it is about semifinals. I do have to write an application, and I hope that I do become a finalist!”