Five seniors recognized for exceptional results in the National Merit Scholarship Program

Abby Butler

More than 1.5 million juniors take the prestigious national PSAT annually. Only a select number of students receive recognition from the National Merit Scholarship program, and, this year, Marian is proud to recognize five seniors whose scores qualified them for national acknowledgment.

On Sept. 28, Marian announced that seniors Mary Watson, Abby McGill and Amirtha Arun received National Merit Semifinalist honors. Alongside, Kira Bravo was named a National Hispanic Scholar and Eleanor Ricketts was named a Commended Student. As they approached the exam last fall, these girls devoted time to prepare in hopes to score high enough to earn scholarship opportunities.

While many students don’t take the ACT or SAT before junior year, these girls credit part of their ability to score well with their preparation beforehand. “I took the SAT once before we did the PSAT, which I think was helpful because I was already pretty familiar with the testing style and format when it came time for the PSAT,” McGill said.

Watson also studied for the ACT in the summer leading up to the exam, which was beneficial for her. “It felt like all my hard work was starting to pay off,” Watson said.

The PSAT covers topics in four sections: reading, writing, language and math. Marian works hard to prepare students to score well on the test their junior year by proctoring the exam for freshman and sophomores, as well. While their scores cannot qualify for scholarships, it helps familiarize the students with the format. Prepping for the exam is effective and Marian girls can attest to that. Watson, who went above and beyond to prepare, said, “I took some diagnostic tests on Khan Academy, and then studied hard for the math topics I didn’t know very well.”

National Merit Pics

As three of 16,000 National Merit Semifinalists, Watson, McGill and Arun still have requirements to fulfill to compete for Finalists. Not only do they have to score well, they must have an outstanding academic record, too. They must submit SAT scores, an application that confirms their grades, extracurriculars and an essay. Their applications will then be used to choose scholarship winners.

The National Hispanic Recognition Program (NHRP) is available for Hispanic or Latino juniors who take the exam. NHRP awards almost 5,000 of 250,000 eligible with the acknowledgment. Academically exceptional Kira Bravo was recognized. “I felt really proud of not just my accomplishments but also of my heritage,” Bravo said.

Ricketts is a Commended student, who like the rest, scored exceptionally well. One of 50,000 students recognized, those who are not Semifinalists are Commended and receive a letter of Commendation. Unlike semifinalists, they do not have any further applications, however, this acknowledgment is nothing less than applaudable.

All five Marian girls admit that their options for college have changed since receiving this award. Watson and McGill both say that being a National Merit Semifinalist means more scholarships, which will impact their decision-making process. “Being an NMSF definitely broadened my college choices!” Arun said.


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The Network is the student newspaper of Marian High School, Nebraska's only Class A College-Preparatory School for young women.

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