Every year, more than 1.5 million high school juniors take the PSAT, the Preliminary Scholastic Assessment Test. The National Merit Scholarship Program, a United States academic scholarship competition, recognizes approximately 50,000 of these test-takers for outstanding scores on the PSAT. From this group, about 16,000 students, representing the highest scoring entrants from each state, are named as semifinalists. Among these 16,000 semifinalists are four hard-working students from Mira Loma. Ansel Shen, Aditya Anantaraman, Julia Mathews, and Sky Yip are two steps closer towards earning this prestigious award.
Aditya Anantaraman, a senior at Mira Loma High School, believes that the rigorous classes offered at Mira Loma helped him score well on the PSAT. He shares, “The tough curriculum definitely prepared me well – especially precalc.” Apart from the classes at Mira Loma, Anantaraman also believes that his extracurricular activities, especially the Speech and Debate Club, proved valuable. He states that “analyzing and writing so many arguments made understanding and answering questions about the reading passages a lot easier.”
Julia Mathews, another senior at Mira Loma High School, also believes that the classes she took at Mira Loma helped her score well on the PSAT. She comments that they helped “in that my math and reading were good enough for the PSAT.”
Different students approach preparing for the PSAT in different ways. While some decide on no preparation to see what their baseline score is without dedicated PSAT studying, others prepare months in advance to try to achieve the best score possible. For Mathews, she was scheduled to take the ACT examination a few weeks before her PSAT exam. Her “ACT preparation was [her] PSAT preparation.”
Meanwhile, Anantaraman had decided at the beginning of his junior year to take his SAT exam in the fall or winter of his junior year. He “realized [he] could kill two birds with one stone if [he] started studying for the SAT, which would also prepare [him] for the PSAT.” He adds, “I really viewed the PSAT as just preparation for the SAT but national merit was a nice added goal to reach for.”
Being a national merit semifinalist leads to recognition, enhances college admissions applications, and opens the door to select scholarships for college. For example, semifinalists are eligible to apply for a large scholarship from USC. While Anantaraman did not initially consider applying to USC, his eligibility to apply for a USC scholarship has convinced him that applying there “would be a good decision.”
The next step in the competition process is the determination of 15,000 finalists, which will be announced sometime in February 2024. From this pool, about half will be named as either being merit scholarship winners or special scholarship recipients. For now, however, Mira Loma’s national merit finalists, along with their peers, are busy applying for college admissions and seriously considering future career plans.
Ansel Shen, another Mira Loma semifinalist, confides that he is still considering his career options. However, his dream would be to attend Stanford University next year. Mathews shares that she would like “to have some sort of computer/electrical engineering job” and would like to “attend a UC or a private school in California.”
Meanwhile, Anantaraman is considering multiple career options, including careers in the fields of biomedical engineering and law. He shares, “I think my curiosity lends itself well to a life in academia, and entrepreneurship, although risky, would be lots of fun and would let me bring some cool ideas to market. . . . Law is a little bit more quirky, but I think a life as a patent/IP lawyer that provides support to biotechnology firms or explores pharmaceutical law would be cool.” While he believes he would be happy at many colleges next year, his top three choices are Columbia, University of Michigan, and UCSD.
As they consider their life beyond high school, Anantaraman, Shen, and Mathews all agree that what they will miss the most is their friends and community here at Mira Loma High School.