Interview with National Merit Semifinalist Keene Patarakun

Pictured left to right: Keene Patarakun, Erin Broas, Troy Gilchrist, Hope Melton, Nate Rowan

Every year, high school students around the country have the chance to take the PSAT, or Pre-SAT.  For Juniors, this test is an opportunity to prepare for the important SAT that they will take as seniors.  However, there is more at stake than just preparation.  High-scorers on the PSAT have a chance to earn a National Merit Scholarship for their performance on the test, which can equal up to $2,500.  On average, 1.6 million juniors take the PSAT every year, and of those, around 50,000 of these will be named as semifinalists for the Merit Scholarship in September.  Semifinalists will then have the opportunity throughout the rest of the year to prove themselves academically and qualify as one of 15,000 finalists, who are named in February.  Finally, around 7,000 of these finalists are awarded Merit Scholarships.

Arizona College Prep is proud to have five of their students named as semifinalists for the National Merit Scholarship: Erin Broas, Nate Rowan, Hope Melton, Troy Gilchrist, and Keene Patarakun.  These excellent students have shown themselves to be among the best of the best in the entire nation, and should be very proud of their accomplishments.  This is a tremendous honor for these students, and it is a testament to the preparation they put into this test.  ACP’s teachers should also be congratulated, as the achievements of their students are a reflection of the hard work they put in every day to make them not only better students, but better people.  Below is an interview with semifinalist Keene Patarakun.

Q. How did you prepare for the test?

A. I used a test prep book (Barron’s, I believe) to review the areas that I felt a little weak in; for me, I did quite a bit of math review because I hadn’t done a lot of geometry and trigonometry in the weeks leading up to the PSAT. The biggest help for me was using the practice tests at the end of the book, although not a full test at one time. It’s easy enough (and a bit interesting) to practice each section and grade yourself.

Q. What does being a semifinalist tell you about yourself as a student?

A. I think being a semifinalist shows that I’m a good test taker more so than a smart student. I can name a few other people in my class who are smarter than me and should have made it to semifinalist status, but didn’t. I don’t stress too much while taking a test, and I can absorb myself fully in it (I usually don’t notice distractions like a clock or the proctor moving around the room), which helped with my ranking. That being said, I’m honored that I was selected as a semifinalist.

Q. Any advice for juniors taking the PSAT this year?

A. Take advantage of test prep books. As they say, practice makes perfect (yes, I know, cliche). You don’t necessarily need to read the entire book, but just run through a few of the practice tests to get an idea of what you can do. However, don’t study study study all the time, that will burn you out. Most importantly, don’t do last minute studying for the PSAT the night before; instead, use that time to relax and prepare your mind for the tedious hours you’ll spend taking the test.

Q. What are your plans for after you graduate?

A. In general, my plan is to go for a biochemistry major and maybe an MD/PhD after that. I think I want to be a medical researcher, but I’m not set on that yet. I have no idea which college I’m going to go to, but I do have a list in mind to submit applications.  For now, I’m just trying to organize the minefield of deadlines for all the scholarships and universities.

The entire ACP family congratulates these five seniors for their accomplishments, and wishes them luck as they hope to be named as finalist in February.