Meritocracy for the win

Several seniors have qualified for potential scholarships due to their PSAT/NMSQT scores. They receive recognition for their high scores.

The National Merit Scholarship Program, started in 1955, is a chance for students to receive academic scholarships and earn recognition for their Preliminary SAT (PSAT) and National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (NMSQT) scores. Around 1.5 million high school students take part in the program every year. After meeting the entry requirements, students take the PSAT exam, which, according to the College Board, “measures what students learn in school, determines if students are on track for college success, and opens doors for opportunities to prepare and pay for college.” Sophomores at LM take the PSATs, but they are not eligible to enter the National Merit Scholarship Program until their junior year. The National Merit Scholarship Corporation labels each year’s PSAT “the qualifying test designated for entry to a particular year’s competition.” The entry requirements include being a current high school student, taking the PSAT, and going to high school in the U.S. or meeting the citizenship qualifications for students who attend high school outside of the U.S.


Approximately 500,000 high school students with the top PSAT scores in the U.S. are designated either semifinalists or Commended Students. The latter receive letters of recognition for their outstanding scores on the PSAT’s, but are typically below the required level to qualify as a semifinalist in their state. Opportunities still remain, though. “Although Commended Students do not continue in the competition for National Merit Scholarships, some of these students do become candidates for Special Scholarships sponsored by corporations and businesses,” says the College Board. 

Graphic by Emmi Wu ’23/Staff

In most years, around ninety percent of semifinalists are chosen as finalists based on their academic accomplishments, skills, and work ethic. High school principals are given a Certificate of Merit to present to each finalist. There are different recognitions that finalists compete for, including the National Merit award (worth $2,500), corporate-sponsored awards, and college-sponsored awards. This year, 23 LM seniors were selected as semifinalists: Nina Aagaard, Samuel Aronson, Macy Donahoe, Matthew Eichen, Phillip Gao, William Johnson, George Lauri, Sean Li, Lily Ruth Mamary, Kierson McLain, Isaac Mittman, Annika Naveen, Dori Olson, Shoshana Promer, Kathryn Schweickert, Sophie Serruya, Caryl Shepard, Leo Solga, Vyomini Vakil, Ashtyn Webb, Jonathan Xu, Bowen Ying, and Jessica Zhong. Each of these students are now eligible to compete for 7,500 scholarships worth nearly $30 million. Congratulations and good luck to all of our semifinalists!