Two HHS Students Qualify as National Merit Semi-Finalists

October 30, 2020

Across the country, last year’s juniors had the opportunity to take the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT). 

Dominic Valentini and Samuel Dirkswager, seniors, scored the highest out of the 85 HHS students who took the test last year. 

Through this, their scores and academic achievements gave them the ability to be eligible for a multitude of scholarships.

“Being a semi-finalist is going to open a lot of doors for me academically. Almost all the schools offer scholarships, which will influence where I end up going greatly,” Valentini said.

Along with the test, it also comes with an abundant load of extracurriculars, test preparation, college applications, and regular school work. 

“I worked very hard and it shows that it paid off in the end. I’m looking forward to what it’s going to help me with in the future,” Valentini said. 

This same opportunity was awarded to sophomore and juniors this school year, and on Oct. 14, they were able to sign up and try to become National Merit Semifinalists themselves. 

Students may feel uncertain about taking the PSAT due to the unclear communication and advertisement. Lola Schectman, junior, recently took the PSAT/NMSQT. 

“Taking the test will help me with test-taking in the future such as the ACT because it let me fully experience what it is like to take a test of that kind,” Schectman said. 

The test simulation is similar in regard to other standardized tests. Like to this year’s ACT and SAT test regulations, test takers must wear a mask while testing and sit in socially distant seating. All of these tests are important to students and counselors alike, due to the results showing the baseline of college readiness in students. 

Serena Schmidt, counselor, is in charge of administering the test and agrees it’s beneficial to sign up.

“Some students may prepare for the test, others may consider it as a practice test and prepare for the SAT after they receive their PSAT score,” Schmidt said.

Unlike the ACT opportunity afforded at HHS, students aren’t automatically registered to take the PSAT. This can cause students to be unaware about the opportunity, which reflects in the low number of students who take the PSAT at HHS.

“The school could have had more clear cut communication when it came to registering for the test. I didn’t hear anything about it until I reached out to my counselor,” Schectman said. 

With this, only 100 students took the PSAT/NMSQT during the 2018-19 school year. There was a single semi-finalist winner from the class of 2020, Evan Kommschiles, alum. But despite a 15 percent decrease in test-takers, there was a 200 percent increase in National merit semi-finalists winners.

The number of students that reach the semi-finals varies from year to year. It’s exciting for Hopkins to have students be recognized as semi-finalists,” said Schmidt.

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