This article was written by Amber Bhutta, class of 2019.
Part of approximately 16,000 honorees across the country, 70 seniors received the title of 2019 National Merit Semifinalist this past week, the highest number the school has ever had. In addition, 21 students qualified as National Merit Commended Scholars, giving the school a total of 91 nationally recognized students.
“When they announced the cutoff for this year, we were amazed,” Principal Mrs. Elise Blum said during a meeting informing students that they had qualified as Semifinalists. “Despite the setbacks [for practice] like the weather, we broke records. Everyone should be very proud of themselves.”
The figures from the class of 2019 surpass last year’s numbers. The class of 2018 had 48 National Merit Semifinalists and 31 Commended Scholars, adding up to 79 recognized students as compared to this year’s 91 students. To celebrate this achievement, school president Dr. Douglas Laurie bought Chik-fil-A and Krispy Kreme donuts for the 2019 Semifinalists.
High school seniors earned such a designation based on their performance on the 2018 PSAT, also referred to as the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. After the test administration, the College Board scored the tests and, based on their relative score trends, released index score cutoffs for each state. In Florida, students needed an index score of at least 219 (out of 228) in order to become a Semifinalist. For Commended Scholar, however, the College Board determines one national cutoff, which this year came out as 212.
Many students who qualified as a Semifinalist partook in the Ray Dass PSAT program and credit their success to the program’s preparation. In the months leading up to the PSAT, students invited to participate in the Ray Dass program stayed after school two to four days a week from 4-7 p.m. to prepare for the test. When Hurricane Irma hit South Florida in early September 2018, students lost a week of school due to the weather. Despite this setback, students still deemed the program helpful.
“The program was super helpful, and it forced me to practice and study,” senior Alex Becker said.
Those who made Semifinalist now must submit an application, an essay and their SAT scores to apply for Finalist status and qualify for National Merit scholarships.
Alejandro Sosa Gil