North Boasts School Record of NMSQT Commended Students, Two Semi-finalists


Laure Schulders

The TV in the link displays the 17 commended students for the NMSQT, a new record for North.

Thor Nelson, Staff Writer

This fall, two North seniors performed extremely well on the highly prestigious NMSQT and were awarded the coveted semi-finalist status, along with 17 commended students.

The National Merit Scholarship is given out on a yearly basis, with the top high-school students competing for it with the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (NMSQT). The NMSC, National Merit Scholarship Corporation, calculates a student’s score by adding together the scores of the three PSAT sections, Reading, Math, and Writing and Language, and then multiplying by two, resulting in one number, the NMSC Selection Index Score.

Unlike the PSAT, the NMSQT is not mandatory and simply takes responses from the PSAT and applies them to the NMSQT’s criteria. Despite being voluntary, it’s considered one of the most helpful tests for college prospects.

This year, North had two students achieve the honor of semi-finalist, seniors Justin Hughes and Jack Barton. About 90% of semi-finalists reach finalist status. About half of the finalists, 7,500 students, receive scholarships from the NMSC, corporations and colleges.

North also had 17 commended students, the most the school has ever had. They surpassed the 209 Index Score commended cutoff mark but didn’t reach semi-finalist status: Shanil Amin, Laure Schulders, Lillian Dye, Joseph Serewicz, Julia Fifer, Jacob Shimon, Colman Gonnella, John Sommer, Kyle Lam, Elle Stablein, Jason Liu, Jacob Steimle, Matthew Neece, Caitlin Suda, Rachel Price, Vincent Vandiver and Andrew Zoretic.

“I think it’s important to recognize the achievements of these students and the things they’ve worked hard to get,” said John Peters, Assistant Principal of College and Career Readiness. Being a finalist, semi-finalist or commended student is helpful when applying to colleges. Those awarded can list the NMS under the awards section of their application.

North has been steady at producing semi-finalists annually.

“We’re typically around the two semi-finalists mark,” said Peters. But, it can go to extremes. “Last year we had six which was a big one, but the year before that we had one. But even that year we had 5-15 commended students.”

Upon being awarded, the semi-finalists are congratulated by North’s top staff.

“I was actually just entering my AP Lit class when Mr. Peters came and took me and Jack Barton, the other semi-finalist, to the pod, where Mrs. Lewis and the assistant principals were and they basically congratulated us and it was really cool,” said Justin Hughes, one of the semi-finalists. “It felt like a reward for all my hard work.”

The NMSQT semi-finalists were celebrated by North. (Laure Schulders)

It can be difficult to achieve semi-finalist or even commended status. One of the most effective helpers for training are practice tests, which many award winners recommend.

“Taking the practice test was what really helped me,” said Hughes on what advice he’d give aspiring semi-finalists, “So I’ll always recommend that.” 

Studying in specific areas is also often a help, according to many winners. 

Reading and grammar were my toughest areas. For grammar, I purchased a review book to learn the rules in-depth, which allowed me to quickly improve my scores. For reading, just continuing to utilize practice passages and questions really helped me improve my scores,” said Hughes.

Many college advisors recommend sophomores and juniors check the box that has them take the NMSQT alongside the PSAT.

“Finalists have plenty of opportunities for scholarships,” said Peters, “with two billion dollars of scholarship money in there and tons of schools pitching in.” 

A new batch of NMSQT hopefuls took the test on Oct. 13th. The results will be revealed next year.