The National Merit Scholarship is considered among one of the most prestigious scholarships for incoming undergraduate students; earning this scholarship is no easy feat! Interested students take the PSAT their junior year. Top scorers on this exam are distinguished as commended students by the National Merit Scholarship Program or if you’re among each U.S. state’s highest scorers then you’re a semifinalist. This scholarship is so prestigious that being selected as a commended student or as a semifinalist are significant accomplishments (and resume lines!) on their own. After submitting required materials: essays, resumes, and SAT or ACT scores, semifinalists may be selected as finalists. From this small group of finalists, an even smaller group of National Merit Scholars is ultimately selected without any additional materials submitted.
Fischer High School is proud to have two students in the Class of 2022 who have qualified as National Merit Scholarship Finalists – Aryeh B. and Cameron M. Cameron shared some insights about what went into achieving this accomplishment. She said, “I admittedly had worked very hard to achieve the score that I did. If there is one thing that I think helped me along my journey it was preparing and taking many practice tests… I took more practice tests than I could count if I was an octopus and had eight hands.”
Cameron was kind enough to share some test-taking and writing tips that have helped her through her academic journey and to ultimately become a National Merit Scholarship Finalist. In regards to test-taking, she emphasized, “Miracles don’t happen on the SAT. The SAT is a game… there are points, you have an objective… The best way to set yourself up for success in any game is to practice at it… If you want to win, you’ve got to go in with a strategy.”
In building a test-taking strategy, she specifically recommends the following: “For the reading and the grammar part, learn to dissect the questions… Become a critical question reader.”
Cameron believes that it is essential to take full advantage of the benefits of prep-books in addition to working with a tutor.
In regards to writing, she reminds students that “the foundation of good writing is a good idea.” She advises, “Always have a notes folder open… you never know when that incredible line… or that incredible connection is just going to pop into your head… Make sure you act on your ideas.”
She also reminds students not to overdramatize their writing and to remember that one’s writing should be like a conversation with that person or genuine insight into their mind. In writing personal essays, Cameron stresses the importance of finding a common thread between multiple passions to reveal one’s true personality.
As adapted from “Alexander Hamilton,” Cameron recommends that students “put a pencil to [their] temple, connect it to [their] brain.”
Most importantly, “the SAT and the ACT… is not a measure of intelligence, it is not a measure of your worth as a person… that number is just a number.”
The National Merit Scholarship is an incredible honor and prestigious point of distinction on students’ resumes. However, it is important to note that this scholarship is one of the thousands of scholarships available to incoming undergraduate students, many of which are very prestigious or can provide great financial support.