Meritable students contend for college scholarships


Sophia Kim, Asst. Sports Editor

For 17 students at Diamond Bar High School, achieving a high PSAT score has paid off when they were named semifinalists for the National Merit Scholarship.

The 16,000 semifinalists nationwide were chosen by the NMSC based on the results of the October PSAT taken last year. The cutoff score to qualify as semifinalists varied per state. California’s cut-off was higher than most states, 221 out of 228.

According to NMSC, 1.6 million PSAT scores are submitted annually and less than one percent of those qualify test takers as semifinalists for the scholarships.

The semifinalists from Diamond Bar High School are seniors Jason Ahn, Shannen Rikki Barrameda, Vinay Bhupathiraju, Benjamin Chen, Connie Chen, Justin Chuang, Brandon Hung, Peyrin Kao, Su Min Kim, Vickie Kuo, Aaron Lee, Adeline Lee, Monica Lin, James Lo, Leslie Sim, Sabrina Tseng, and Joanna Zhang.

Last October, the class of 2017 was the first to take the new version of the PSAT. The new PSAT was released before the new version of the SAT was first administered this March. The new PSAT is scored out of 1520 instead of 240 and is 35 minutes longer. The critical reading section changed to evidence based reading and writing, and the test now offers only four answer choices.  In addition, the guessing penalty was removed.

“I didn’t even know what the new format of the PSAT was going to look like so I was surprised when I saw my score,” Sim said. “I guess not putting pressure on myself to prepare beforehand paid off because I was able to take the test calmly and not worry about my score.”

The semifinalists are now getting ready to advance to the finalist level in February, where they will be competing for the National Merit $2,500 Scholarship, Corporate Sponsored Scholarship, or College-sponsored Scholarship.

In order to qualify as a finalist, students must complete an application, which includes listing their first-choice college and extracurricular activities, along with a teacher recommendation and an essay describing an experience or obstacle they have overcome.

In February, around 15,000 semifinalists are notified that they have been chosen as finalists. However, only approximately 7,500 are confirmed as Scholars for the Merit Scholarship award in the beginning of March.

“[Qualifying as a semifinalist] gave me another reason to push myself,” Kim said. “I thought that I closed some doors for myself after not performing as well in my junior year.”