Kickstart on The Road to College Four BHS students are named 2018’s National Merit Scholarship Semifinalists
If you are from pretty much any high school in the United States, you are probably familiar with the Pre-Scholastic Aptitude Test, or PSAT. For most, it is nothing more than another standardized test. For four particular BHS students however, it turned out to be the opportunity of a lifetime.
Anyone who has heard about the college application process knows that it typically comes down to one thing: money. Higher education is expensive, which is why in The College Board’s mission statement they claim to “connect students to college success and opportunity.” Part of their process is (attempting) to connect students with scholarship opportunities, and it all begins with the PSAT.
This test is an aptitude test given in the same format as the real SAT that is meant to give students an accurate reflection of their performance and what they need to study to do well on the real test. Regardless of whether or not this works, there is more at stake than simple measurements. The College Board also offers the National Merit Scholars Program, which is not only a surefire way to receive merit aid from schools, but also a hefty boost to your university application.
Calculations and averages from each student’s score are done, and those who meet/exceed the Selection Index qualifying score (Washington’s is 222) are awarded the title of National Merit Scholar Semifinalist. Around 16,000 of the 50,000 who take the test each year make it this far. This year BHS students Samantha Turpen, Joshua Lewis-Sandy, Eli Sellers, and Sean Reilly earned their place among America’s best.
These four have been working hard, all of them scored within the top 2% of PSAT test-takers while enrolled in Honors and AP classes. They also have all completed their additional standardized testing, for which the PSAT counts for nothing. Beyond that, they also have the opportunity to apply and become Finalists, which would secure them additional scholarship money.
With all of this success, there have been drawbacks. Eli says that one of the hardest parts about being a Semifinalist is “trying to explain to people what it means and the difference between the SAT/PSAT.” He said, “lots of adults ask me what it means that I’m a semi-finalist and I’m never really sure how in-depth to go…”
These four students deserve recognition not only for their amazing knowledge and academic skills, and from taking back just a little bit of power from the puppet-masters of higher education. For a non-profit organization, The College Board charges high prices for testing and support resources, and the scholarship money that they do give out is rather small. No matter what their next step is, these four certainly have demonstrated they can take on whatever College Board has to offer.