National Merit Scholar Semifinalists Honored

Nichole Jin ’24 and Helena Chen ’24 in News | October 7, 2022

Congratulations to V Formers Ben Cavanagh, Praachi Chakraborty, Julia Chiang, Satvik Dasariraju, David Gao, Alistair Lam, Andrew Noviello, Grant Shueh, Tristan Wan, Ashley Wang, and Jeb Williams on becoming Semifinalists in the 2022 National Merit Scholarship Program. These students now have the opportunity to compete with other semifinalists throughout the nation for 7,500 National Merit Scholarships worth $30 million in total. 
To become a National Merit Semifinalist, students must first achieve scores in the top 1 percent of their state on the PSAT. Out of 1.5 million entrants, roughly 50,000 are recognized with Letters of Commendation, and 16,000 of those commended are named Semifinalists for their state.
To be considered for a National Merit Scholarship, Semifinalists must now go through an application process. The application to become a Finalist consists of transcripts, a listing of extracurricular activities and awards, SAT or ACT scores, and an essay, as well as an endorsement from a school official. In February, roughly 15,000 of the 16,000 Semifinalists are announced to progress to the Finalist round.
Finally, around 8,000 of the Finalists are awarded $2,500 scholarships. Then, from May onwards, the National Merit program also gives students college-sponsored awards based on their choice of college.
Lam viewed the PSAT as “good practice” for the SAT, which he was preparing for at the time. He also thought that writing the Finalist application was good preparation for college applications, as it is like a “simplified Common App.” 
Cavanagh agreed, saying, “I found [the Finalist application] to be a good excuse to get some more work done on my college applications. I wrote an essay on overcoming a challenge and fleshed out the theme for potential use in my [supplemental essays].”
Similarly, Wang said that “since the SAT has a lot of overlap with the PSAT, I just studied for the SAT and applied those same skills.”  
Lam emphasized the importance of “having confidence” in helping one succeed on the PSAT, as Lawrenceville courses prepare students “well beyond what the test requires.” Doing a number of practice tests and using time management strategies also allowed Lam to improve on his test-taking and gain a better understanding of the content on the PSAT. 
Wang agreed, saying that there is no need to “stress about” the test and “over prepare[ing]” is not immensely difficult because the Lawrenceville curriculum prepares students well. 
“The scholarship, at the end of the day, is about more than just your score…You have to demonstrate how you contribute to the community,” Lam said. His advice to those hoping to become National Merit Scholars is to get involved at Lawrenceville and pursue their passions by joining different groups on campus.