DBHS boasts 18 National Merit semifinalists

Having just one National Merit Scholarship semifinalist is an impossible feat for most high schools. Diamond Bar High School, however, has once again exceeded standards as 18 seniors have been named semifinalists, putting them in the running for a $2,500 scholarship.

The students selected for the honor were Courtney Chan, Sean Chang, Tiffany Chang, Valerie Chang, Michelle Chao, Joshua Chung, Mena Hassan, Jonathan Ho, Grace Lee, Ryan Lou, Catherine Lu, Tom Murickan, Mason Pan, Karen Shao, Keshav Sririam, Jessica Yen, Jolynn Zhang and Justin Zhang.

In order to be considered for the scholarship, seniors had to score in the top one percent out of about 1.6 million juniors in last October’s PSAT. Qualifiers also needed high SAT scores to prove that they’re capable of scoring high on the PSAT.

“When I first received the yellow slip, I thought I was in trouble,” Chang said. “‘However, when a student came back with three more slips with the exact same thing written on it, we figured out immediately that it was regarding the National Merit.” 

While Chang was surprised with his 1500 on the PSAT, becoming a semifinalist didn’t come out of the blue.

“After seeing my score, I kind of expected to become a semifinalist because everyone said the cutoff would be around 1480 or 1490,” he said.

Meanwhile, Yen wasn’t as sure that she’d qualify.

“I feel that maybe some people were expecting to [become a] semifinalist, and for me on the other hand it was completely unexpected,” she said. “I know some of the other recipients have gotten 36 on the ACT and 1600 on the SAT, and I was amazed that I could be grouped in those same people.”

Shao was also unclear on how well she could do due to a lack of preparation.

“I went into the test blind because I can’t afford to pay for SAT prep,” she said. “I also didn’t study for it by myself at all, because I was more worried about my grades at the time.”

Because it was so unexpected, Shao said she was elated to find out she was a semifinalist.

“I definitely smiled a lot that day and I texted my mom and my brother to tell them the good news too,” she said.

To continue their application for the scholarship, semifinalists must complete a profile sheet that details their extracurriculars and GPA, obtain a letter of recommendation from a school official and submit a 500 to 600 word essay before Oct. 9.

Even if a person is not named a finalist next February, being a semifinalist still opens many opportunities.

“I have a lot of access to scholarship opportunities not only provided from National Merit, but from the colleges themselves,” Yen said. “Some college-sponsored programs actually scout National Merit scholars and offer a large tuition waiver or grant, which is worth more than the $2,500.”