By Michael Ahn ’22
The National Merit Scholarship Program, or “National Merit” for short, is a scholarship program offered to high schoolers planning on attending college.
Typically, semifinalists for National Merit are chosen through the PSAT (the ‘pre’-SAT), a Collegeboard-run exam that high schoolers usually take in their sophomore or junior years. At Bellarmine, all students are required to take the exam in their junior year — current juniors (class of ’23) will take the PSAT in October.
By scoring above a certain cutline, students can be selected as semifinalists for the scholarship program. Cutlines differ between states (plus D.C.), as each state’s cutline is weighed and determined by the relative performance of the students in that state. States with comparatively high-scoring students have tougher cutlines, whereas states with lower average scores tend to have lower cutlines. Traditionally, California’s cutlines have been very high (along with D.C., New Jersey, Maryland, New York, etc.), and this year was no exception.
As it did to many other things, the pandemic has had a significant impact on the National Merit Scholarship program. Due to COVID, not all students across the states were given authorization to take the PSAT at their schools. With this in mind, National Merit provided these students the option to submit their SAT scores, if they have one, in lieu of a PSAT score. From there, National Merit would assess whether a student is eligible to be a semifinalist by weighing their SAT score against the SAT & PSAT scores of other students in their state.
At Bellarmine, a total of 14 students from the class of 2022 were selected as semifinalists:
Jisang Michael Ahn
Once selected as semifinalists, students can test their odds further and apply for financial rewards and scholarships to help them pay their future college tuitions.
As mentioned before, juniors of the class of ’23 will be taking their PSAT’s in October. Good luck to them!