Students recognized by National Merit Scholarship Board

For many students, getting a high GPA and the most credits are the most important part of high school. Those seem to be what the majority of students are acknowledged for during their high school careers. However, doing well on the PSAT, SAT, or ACT can also be a big accomplishment for some students, which is how senior Gabriel Gomez earned the title as a National Merit Finalist.

“I qualified to be a National Merit Finalist through the PSAT, with a score of 1480,” Gabriel said. “There’s a different cutoff for every state and I met the cutoff that year in order to be considered for that award.”

Gabriel spent much of his free time studying and preparing for these standardized tests, which helped him to earn a high score.

“I mostly prepared through Khan Academy,” Gabriel said. “Khan Academy has a lot of free resources for preparing for the SAT and other courses as well, so I did lots of practice tests on there.”

For other students, preparing for tests is nothing more than learning what is being taught in school already. Senior Alex Vasilakis was named as a National Merit Commended Scholar for his PSAT score, but he approached his tests in a different way than Gabriel did.

“I didn’t have a huge preparation program,” Alex said. “The biggest help was paying attention in my IB math class, as a lot of the subjects were applicable.”

Senior Cainen Palmer was named a National Merit Semi-Finalist for scoring better than 99% of testers on the PSAT. 

“Earning the title really shows off the work I’ve put into studying and trying to better myself at school,” Cainen said. “To prepare for the PSAT, I mostly reviewed topics that I was not really familiar with, geometry being the biggest one.”

Gabriel’s schedule is full of advanced courses and focuses his time into his education, even going as far as taking a calculus-based physics class at A&M during the fall semester.

“This year, I’m in mostly IB classes because I am part of the diploma program, but I’m also in AP calculus and I took an extra class at A&M,” Gabriel said. “The IB classes have helped prepare me for the extra classes I have taken and also get me used to tackling so many different subjects at once.”

Gabriel has found that the most challenging parts of school is balancing the classes, extracurriculars, and personal life. Along with a day full of academics, he is also in choir and stepped out of his comfort zone last Spring to participate in the school musical. 

“The musical was a tremendous time commitment that I wasn’t exactly ready for and it ended up taking several hours after school,” Gabriel said. “Sometimes we’d be done pretty late, so balancing time consuming extracurriculars with homework and everything else I needed to get done can be challenging.”

Although school can be difficult at times, it is always important to remember what students are working towards.

“Taking those large course loads will help prepare students for the challenging things in college and allow them to explore all the different types of fields,” Gabriel said. “To be successful, students should know the worth of the education they’re getting and make sure they’re taking advantage of all the programs that are available.”