Lynbrook awarded highest number of National Merit Semifinalists in California


Graphic illustration by Priyanka Anand

This year, 79 Lynbrook seniors received the National Merit Semifinalist Award.

Priyanka Anand, Web Editor

This year, 79 students from the Lynbrook Class of 2021 have received a National Merit Semifinalist award, making Lynbrook the school with most Semifinalists in Calif. These students have qualified to apply to be a finalist and may be awarded a scholarship through the National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC).

Every year, around 1.6 million juniors take the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT), and the National Merit Semifinalist award is given to students who score in the top one percentile of the exam, nationally. Students take the PSAT exam during their junior year, and receive notice of the Semifinalist award during Sept. of their senior year. The PSAT/NMSQT was administered for current Lynbrook seniors on Oct. 19, 2019, and the Semifinalists were notified on Sept. 9, 2020. The PSAT exam itself is considered to be a preparatory exam for the SAT, an exam usually required by many colleges for admissions. 

“I took my SATs in a non-traditional order: I had already taken SAT Math II and had tried the actual SAT once,” said senior Ria Chaudhary. “Preparing for those gave me everything I needed to take the PSAT.”

After receiving notice of becoming a Semifinalist, students are given the choice to apply to become a National Merit Finalist. Of the students that become finalists, NMSC selects a few students to receive scholarships. Every year, approximately 16,000 Semifinalists are chosen, 15,000 advance to becoming a Finalist and 7,600 are given scholarships, awarded either by NMSC, corporations or colleges. The NMSC scholarship is worth $2500, while the corporate-sponsored and college-sponsored Merit Scholarships range in monetary amounts. 

“A lot of colleges that I’m applying to are private, four-year universities and the yearly tuition of those schools average to be around $50,000, which is a lot of money,” said senior Heather Li. “Since I had this opportunity and it isn’t that much extra work to complete the [NMSC Finalist] application, there is no harm in putting in that effort and perhaps winning a scholarship.”

The NMSC Finalist application consists of a personal essay, a list of extracurricular activities, the student’s college and career plans and an official recommendation provided by the school. While NMSC’s application deadline for this year is Oct. 7, Lynbrook’s deadline to apply is Oct. 5. Finishing NMSC recommendations within the month-long turnaround time between notification of Semifinalist awardees and Finalist application deadlines in addition to writing college recommendation letters can be burdensome for the school’s administrative staff. However, the recommendation letters that are written for NMSC Finalist applicants are almost identical to the recommendation letters that are sent to the applicants’ colleges of interest. 

As seniors look toward college, the National Merit Scholarship program can be especially beneficial in helping to ease the financial burden, while also awarding students for their hard work throughout high school. Through the consistently increasing trend of Lynbrook students doing well on standardized tests like the PSAT, their academic achievements in high school are being used to help them continue achieving in their respective futures. 

“Education is an equalizer and NMSC helps make college education more accessible; though our area is significantly better off than much of the nation, a college education often still comes with a debilitating price tag,” said Chaudhary. “I have known people who got into their top colleges but did not attend and went to a safety [college] instead because of price; NMSC provides support to those students.”