Seniors named national scholars


Serena Shih, Akash George, Eileen Zu, Steven Tjandra and Julienne Nguyen are five out of the fifteen Diamond Bar High School students named semifinalists.

Exceeding standards once again, 15 Diamond Bar High School seniors have been named semifinalists for the 2022 National Merit Scholarship Program.

The students who have achieved this honor include Emma Fu, Akash George, Brian Hsu, Irene Jin, Jaime Jin, Jason Kim, Han Lee, Nathan Lin, Ryan Lui, Erin Miyahara, Julienne Nguyen, Serena Shih, Steven Tjandra, Jaden Zhang and Eileen Zu.

In order to qualify for this title, seniors needed to score in the top one percent of all high school students in the nation, totaling up to 16,000 students.

“I would say I was very excited. Granted, I already knew my score beforehand,” Tjandra said. “Initially, when we were put into the room with a lot of other students, [I thought] I was contact-traced for COVID, but it was definitely a good surprise when I found out it was for National Merit.”

Furthermore, applicants were encouraged to take the SAT in light of the PSAT’s cancellation during the pandemic.

“I was not too used to taking in-person tests because I had not been doing that due to COVID, and I got a 1530,” George said. “It was around my expectations, but I was hoping for a little bit higher because I know some of my friends and some of my peers got higher scores than me. But, I am 100 percent satisfied and happy with my score nonetheless.”

Another concern for many students included the lack of testing sites due to the pandemic. In fact, during the 2019-2020 school year, 1.7 million juniors took the PSAT, while only 800,000 juniors took this year’s exam. Fluid guidelines caused frequent relocation of testing sites, leading many students to chase them down in other districts, counties and even states or opt out of the exam altogether.

Shih faced similar difficulties in finding a testing center during the pandemic.

“The first SAT I registered for was in March, and then the testing centers kept closing down. So, each time I would re-register, the testing center would get closed down,” she said. “I had to redo the process again, ask for a refund, and all that.”

To continue with their path of becoming a National Merit Finalist and receiving the scholarship, semifinalists must not only complete the National Merit Scholarship Application, but also be recommended by their high school principal, as well as an additional staff member.

“[Becoming a National Merit Finalist] would be nice because you get a scholarship with [the position],” Zu said. “Being able to get it would help alleviate potential financial burden in the future. Anything that can help tuition-wise, that would be pretty nice.”

Although the title of National Merit Scholar is one that many high-achieving students may strive for, especially with the $2,500 scholarship in mind, Tjandra emphasized the importance of cherishing other activities throughout high school rather than hyper-focusing on a single exam.

“First, colleges do not see you as a number; they see you as a person. And two, you do not want to see yourself as a number. You are more than just that,” Tjandra said. “So, when it comes to your whole high school experience, focus on things that you like, [such as] your clubs and your activities, because that is what you are going to carry into your future.”

Finalists who will each be granted scholarships will be announced by mid-June.