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Cardinal Nation

2023 National Merit Semi-Finalists and Commended Students

Meet the Mentor students who made the grade so far this year
Mentor’s 2023-24 National Merit Semi-Finalists and Commended Students

This year, the National Merit program has recognized four National Merit Semi-Finalists and three Commended Students from MHS. The Semi-Finalists are Lauren Bangerter, Abby Horvath, Harikrishna Patel, and Michael Suhar, and the Commended Students are Benjamin Golya, Drew Parker, and Olivia Sacks. These were the top students taking the 2022 PSAT/NMSQT.

Founded in 1955, the National Merit Scholarship Program is an annual academic competition for high schoolers. Students enter by taking the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (more commonly known as the PSAT/NMSQT) in October of their 11th grade year. Around 1.3 million students take the test each year, with the top 16,000 named Semi-Finalists and 34,000 named Commended Students. After an extensive application process, 15,000 Semi-Finalists are named Finalists. Merit scholarships are awarded ti 7,140 Finalists, either in the form of a corporate-sponsored scholarship, college-sponsored-scholarship, or $2,500 National Merit Scholarship. Semi-Finalists are notified of Finalist status in February, while scholarship winners are named in March.

Semi-Finalist and Commended students are selected based on their National Merit Selection Index, which is calculated based on their PSAT/NMSQT scores. For the Class of 2024 in Ohio, this was 216 for Semi-Finalists. Each state’s Selection Index threshold is based on the state’s fraction of the nation’s total amount of graduating high school seniors. The Commended Selection Index, 207, is based on a nation threshold rather than on a state-by-state basis.

Cardinal Nation was able to speak with some of our semi-finalists and commended students about their National Merit Recognition.

National Merit Program

Cardinal Nation: What does earning this award mean to you?

Horvath: Earning this award means a lot to me. I first took the PSAT in 5th grade, which was an interesting choice but I did well considering I hadn’t been taught a lot of the material. It’s crazy to think how far I’ve come since then.

Patel: This award is pretty important to me because I have the chance to get a lot of money off college, and maybe even a full ride depending on where I choose to go.

Suhar: For me, earning this award means that I will have a lot more opportunity after high school. The award will help to make college more affordable and even provides me with the ability to go to certain colleges for free if I choose to. This means that I’ll have a lot more freedom in choosing the path I want to take in the future.

Parker: Earning this award is yet another step towards my future goals (it also means money!).

Sacks: Being a National Merit Commended student means a lot to me, and I am very honored. I initially thought my score was not high enough for this award so I was pleasantly surprised when I received it.

Cardinal Nation: What are your plans for after high school?

Horvath: I plan to go to college to study environmental science, specifically in the field of hydrology.

Patel: I plan on going to college for engineering, but I’m not sure exactly what yet.

Suhar: I’m currently planning on going to college to study engineering. I’d also like to stay involved with music after high school as well.

Parker: Go to uChicago (hopefully) as a history major, get either a masters or PHD, and move to the Netherlands to become a historian/archivist.

Sacks: I plan to get a degree in communications or journalism.

Cardinal Nation: What are some activities that you are involved in at MHS?

Horvath: I am involved in a lot of activities such as RPG Club, Book Club, Math League, but the most important to me is Science Olympiad.

Patel: Currently, I am part of tennis and NHS. I also did Investment Club last year.

Suhar: I’m mainly involved in music-related activities at MHS. I’m currently the assistant concertmaster for the Mannheim and Symphony orchestras, I am a member of Cardinal Quartet, and I’m hoping to join Tri-M this year as well.

Parker: I am currently involved in RPG Club (dungeon master), Jazz Band (principal trumpet), Science Olympiad, Marching Band (squad leader), Star Wars Club (co-leader), and will be in Chess Club after the band season is over.

Sacks: I am on the Varsity softball team and in National Honor Society.

Cardinal Nation: What did you do to prepare for the PSAT/NMSQT?

Horvath: I took a couple of practice tests using the time I would have on the actual test to make sure I had the pacing right.

Patel: I had taken the SAT and studied for it before the PSAT and that was good prep because a lot of the questions are similar.

Suhar: I used Khan Academy’s SAT practice site to help familiarize myself with SAT-style questions. I started using it a bit in the summer, and I was doing a couple topics each day by the time the test came around. I also got to practice for the test in Mrs. Bolles’ AP Lang class, which helped a lot with the reading/writing questions.

Parker: I ate a delicious breakfast.

Sacks: I did not do any preparation on my own for the PSAT, but in my AP Lang class Mrs. Bolles walked us through sample questions and strategies, which was very beneficial.

Cardinal Nation: What are some resources that helped you prepare for the PSAT (online platforms, specific textbooks, study guides, etc.)?

Horvath: I did practice on the College Board website and used the packet I got in my English class.

Patel: Nothing specifically for the PSAT, but I used SAT Khan Academy and practice tests.

Suhar: The best online resource I used is Khan Academy’s SAT practice site. It helped me learn what types of questions and topics I could expect to see on the PSAT and prepared me to be able to answer them more confidently and accurately.

Parker: I didn’t really study for the PSAT, but I think that was a mistake because I could’ve been a semi-finalist if I put in more effort. Mrs. Bolles’ class helped me prepare for the questions on both the PSAT and SAT, however.

Sacks: The sample test booklet handed out by the school was helpful. I also briefly looked at Khan Academy resources when taking the PSAT 9/10 in the past.

Cardinal Nation: To whom would you accredit your success?

Horvath: I owe my success to Mrs. Bolles. I’m mathematically minded so I wasn’t worried about that part, but throughout the review and practice Mrs. Bolles had us do, my English scores improved.

Patel: My dad because he told me to start studying for the SAT in the summer, which prepared me to do well on that and the PSAT. It also cleared up a lot of time during the school year because I didn’t have to put aside more time to study for it.

Suhar: Though I acknowledge that my own preparation played a role in my success, I also recognize that my success was only made possible by the help of others around me. If I didn’t have great teachers to guide me throughout my academic career and prepare me for the test, then I highly doubt I would have performed as well as I did.

Parker: A mixture of myself, previous math teachers, and Mrs. Bolles.

Sacks: I credit my success to my teachers who have helped me incredibly with my academic success, my parents who have always encouraged me to continue learning, and myself for holding my work to the highest standard.

Cardinal Nation: After being named a National Merit Semi-Finalist, what are your next steps in the competition? How is the school helping you achieve the next level of competition?

Horvath: The next step after being named a semi finalist is to apply to be a finalist. The school has been very helpful by helping us log in to the website and giving us all the information we need to understand the competition, as well as doing things beyond us to bolster our applications.

Patel: After you get notified, you have to complete an application with basic information about your career choice, extracurriculars/work, and write an essay. The school helps with answering questions, sending transcripts and my counselor also had to write a letter of recommendation.

Suhar: After being named a semi-finalist, I had to fill out my finalist application, which the school has helped a lot with. I received guidance from Ms. Srsen with the application as a whole as well as from Mrs. Richards with the essay. Now that I’ve submitted the application, my next steps are to wait for my results and continue the college search process to figure out which college I want to report to National Merit as my first-choice.

Congratulations to all of our Semi-Finalists and Commended Students!

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