Local Schools Yield 19 National Merit Semifinalists

By Connor Beach

Nineteen students from Huntington-area high schools have been named semifinalists in this year’s National Merit Scholarship Program.

The group of high school seniors qualified for the scholarship program by taking the 2016 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test their junior year, according to the National Merit Scholarship Corporation. 

These local students are part of a group of 16,000 seniors nationwide selected from the 1.6 million students who entered the 2018 scholarship competition. Three such students from Half Hollow Hills High School East achieved semifinalist status.

“I am ecstatic about receiving the honor of being selected as a semifinalist and so proud of the others as well,” Elizabeth Chen said.

Fellow Hills East classmate and semifinalist Aditi Patil added, “For me, this is extremely rewarding because National Merit allows me to grow my intellectual curiosity and reach for many more educational opportunities.”

Kasim Waqar, the third semifinalist from Hills East, added, “I’m grateful, as this recognition will help further my endeavors of becoming an innovator and excelling in math and science as well as the arts.”

A pair of semifinalists from Half Hollow Hills High School West said they were surprised when they received the National Merit Results.

“After taking the PSAT, I figured I got a decent grade, but I wasn’t expecting this, " Adam Kaushik said. "Being a semifinalist showed me that I underestimate myself at times, and while I shouldn’t be overconfident, I should have more faith in myself.”

Irene Antony said she was proud of herself and the other students who earned the honor, but added that the experience really hasn’t sunk in yet.

Meanwhile, Emma Johnston, a semifinalist from Harborfields, attributed her success to her teachers. “I think it’s a testament to the great education I’ve had the privilege of receiving at both Harborfields and Long Island School for the Gifted," Johnston said. "I’ve had some fantastic teachers over the years and I’m so grateful for their support.”

Northport High School’s lone semifinalist Julianne Starzee added, “I feel really accomplished because I worked very hard. It feels great to get recognition for that hard work.”

Other local semifinalists include Thomas Carey from Cold Spring Harbor High School; Raphael Iskra, Nicole La Reddola, Daniel Lee and William Liu from Commack High School; Aidan Forbes from Huntington High School; Danielle D’Alonzo, Amani Morrell and Mahon Walsh from St. Anthony’s High School; and Joshua Joseph, Kentaro Matsushima and Joseph Van Gostein from Walt Whitman High School.

The scores used to select semifinalists are calculated by doubling the sum of the reading, math, and writing and language scores on the PSAT/NMSQT. The scores needed to qualify as a semifinalist vary because each state is allocated a certain percentage of students who receive scholarship consideration.

These students now have several more steps to complete before they earn one of the 7,500 National Merit Scholarships, which total more than $32 million. Around 15,000 of the semifinalists will move on to the finalist category, and the actual scholarship recipients will be chosen from that group.

A total of 2,500 National Merit $2500 Scholarships will be awarded, as well as 1,000 corporate sponsored scholarships from 230 different businesses and 4,000 Merit Scholarships that are awarded by 190 colleges to students that will be attending the sponsoring college in fall 2018.