A Glimpse Into the Mind of a National Merit Scholarship Finalist!

Ever impressive and to no one’s surprise, the class of 2021 tends to never disappoint. Whether we be defying expectations, overcoming worldly obstacles, winning competitions on Zoom or on the field, and academically thriving, we are definitely a force to be reckoned with! However, a certain group of individuals appears to stand out for their academic rigor and drive to succeed. As we all know (and rarely enjoy), in October, the PSAT comes around and plagues our thoughts. While some may just see it as preparation for the SAT, others use it for one of the most coveted and rewarding scholarship opportunities: The National Merit Scholarship! Through a rigorous process, five lucky students have been selected to be finalists! I had the opportunity to speak to one, Dominic Gnecco, about his tips, tricks, and experiences throughout the process of taking the exam and preparing for the scholarship! Let’s get into it.

Q: How do you feel about being in a select group of finalists for this prestigious award?

A: It’s pretty nice, especially since I know and talk to some of the other finalists from ACP. Most of my family were excited about it, which added to those positive feelings!

Dominic Gnecco

Q: What did you do to originally ace your PSAT? Do you have any tips for the underclassmen that are preparing for it?

A: To be honest, I just studied. Everyone has their own unique way of studying which works for them; for me, it was to go through practice tests with friends and quiz each other. Be sure not to overwork yourself too, finding a balance is key. Oh, and eat a good breakfast beforehand!

Q: What steps do you have to take to get from a semifinalist to a finalist? Was it difficult?

A: Becoming a finalist required two main steps: writing an essay and having our counselor write a letter of recommendation. For the letter of rec, we had to fill out a quick form and Mrs. Vitton called me for about half an hour to discuss different accomplishments and character traits to put in the letter. For the essay, I pretty much just told a quick story about a moment that changed who I was. Overall, it wasn’t bad at all, just a bit of extra work!

Q: What college are you hoping to attend regardless of if you win or not?

A: I’m mainly set on attending the Barrett Honors College at ASU, but in case that doesn’t work out, my backup is most likely NAU.


Q: If you had the world’s attention for 30 seconds, what would you say?

A: Hmmm, that’s tough. It would probably be something along the lines of “remember that everyone is unique in their own way, and as long as you know yourself, you can accomplish what you set your mind to; and if you don’t yet, that’s fine as well, just take your time, ‘cause being you is the best thing you can be.” Yeah, it’s cliché, but it’s true!

Well, folks, I hope Dominic was able to give you some insight into the scholarship itself and the steps one has to take to try to achieve it. Remember, it’s open to most students so take that chance if you can! Remember, to strive for the impossible and be extraordinary, Knights!