National Merit Finalists to Be?

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Every fall, Casady juniors take the PSAT, the first step in being a National Merit Scholar. From there, about 16,000 students next fall are announced to be semifinalists, and in the following February, 15,000 of them are announced to be finalists. For many, taking the PSAT can be a daunting task, but Casady students generally fare well. Due to the higher standard of Casady classes, most juniors already have a solid foundation of background knowledge for the PSAT and other standardized tests like the ACT and SAT. Kiran Naidu, one of the National Merit semifinalists, agreed that the difficulty of Casady classes and the high standards teachers have helped prepare students for national standardized tests like the PSAT.

“Yeah, I would say that the classes do help, cause you might get something like in calculus or chemistry, so yeah it definitely helps,” said Kiran.

One of the benefits that Casady has is the lower index bar in Oklahoma, meaning it is easier to make the cut rather than in a tougher state like California or Texas.

“The bar in Oklahoma is lower, so if I had lived in a state where the bar is a near perfect score then I would have been like, oh, I’m not getting this,” said Abby Fakhoury.

This year, Casady students had five seniors named National Merit semifinalists, Divya Chandrasekaran, Abby Fakhoury, Kiran Naidu, Jes Stanfield, and Drew Walters. 

“I was very happy when I was announced to be a semifinalist,” said Jes. “It gave me a sense of accomplishment to be one of the top students in the country.” 

Being a National Merit semifinalist is a major accomplishment for seniors applying for colleges, as they have a step up over other applicants. This allows them to get more financial aid, or just a boost into more competitive colleges that they wish to attend. 

“It’s great, it’s a perk, I get nearly free college at OU, so I think that’s pretty notable,” said Abby.

However, the semifinalists agree that it’s not something to freak out about.

“I didn’t really study for it or anything, I just used my ACT preparation from the summer to help me for it,” said Jes. “I don’t think it’s anything to really get worried about. It’s nice to have that on your resume, that you were a National Merit semifinalist, but it’s nothing too important.”

“I think it’s pretty notable, being a National Merit semifinalist, but I would weigh other things higher,” said Abby.

A difficult part for upcoming juniors is deciding how to study and how much to study for the PSAT. This year’s semifinalists advised the current sophomore class to simply study for the ACT, and most of that preparation will help for the PSAT. 

“Don’t spend a lot of time specializing your prep for PSAT, I think the prep for the ACT was just as valuable, just because of what I said about standardized testing being kind of the same across the board, don’t waste your time getting to know the test.” said Abby. “Don’t slave over PSAT workbooks, I think you can be proactive studying for the ACT and killing two birds with one stone.”

Of course though, the path isn’t done yet for these high achieving seniors. In late February, the announcement of who has made the cut of being a National Merit Finalist will be announced. About 15,000 of the 16,000 semifinalists will make the cut to become a National Merit Finalist.

“There’s only about 1,000 that miss it, so I feel pretty confident that I’ll make it,” said Kiran. But it’s a lot better to be known as a National Merit Finalist rather than a semifinalist, so it’s kind of pretty cool even if there isn’t much of a difference.”