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Knight Times

Knight Times

National Merit Scholarship Semifinalists’ Great Achievement

Photo Credit: Abilene ISD

The National Merit Scholarship Program, founded in 1955, is an educational competition for academic recognition and college scholarships. It is a scholarship program open to all high school students. Its importance goes beyond providing financial aid and making education more affordable; it also promotes diversity, draws in and keeps talent, broadens networks, and gives students the chance to pursue an education they might not otherwise have. Each year, when taking the PSAT/NMSQT, approximately 1.6 million students from roughly 22,000 high schools apply for the National Merit Scholarship. This test evaluates applicants to the program’s screening process for their critical reading comprehension, mathematical problem-solving skills, and writing proficiency. Twenty-three seniors in our senior class at ACP are semifinalists for National Merit Scholarships at ACP. The semifinals include Manojna (Mano) Burla, Dominic (Nico) Castagna, Ian Dary, Evan DaRosa, Andrew (Drew) Devine, Tyler Duong, Erin Fitzharris, Swanuja Godasi, Manukrishna (Manu) Iyer, Kenan Kao, Anshika Kedia, Talia Keen, Taeeun (Maggie) Kim, Shanthi LeBonheur, Lillian McNeil, Ty Mileson, Arnav Mishra, Gauri Murkoth, Jacob Paton-Lloyd, Aayush Rastogi, Abhinav Saxena, Jack Xie, and Xieshi Zhang. In the history of our school, this class has produced the most semifinalists, and we could not be happier and more overjoyed with the opportunities these students are receiving! 

I had the chance to speak to one of the semifinalists, Aayush Rastogi. When he was named one of the semifinalists for the National Merit Scholarship, he felt “extremely honored. It’s nice to hear because I put in hard work trying to practice for my SAT and PSAT, but no matter how well I did, there was always a bit of nervousness that I may not do as well. It’s also refreshing to know that my financial life as I embark on college will not be as difficult, especially because I plan on going the pre-med route.” I asked him what makes him a strong candidate for the scholarship, and he responded, “I don’t think anything about me makes me exceptionally stand out because we all have our skills, and in this manner, I guess my reading, writing, and math skills stood out in this manner. I am very ambitious about what I want to pursue in the future. I truly appreciate the opportunity to receive financial aid and believe that National Merit Scholarships has in me by offering me this scholarship.”

His future goals are to “pursue neuroscience and biomedical engineering and have a career where I can both interact with patients while being on the frontier of scientific research.” Aayush’s role model when it comes to not just academics but life in general is his father. He passionately speaks about his father and says he “taught me to look beyond the surface of things and to not take others’ words for truth. He’s taught me how to make sure I fully understand a concept and the nuances within it. Whether repairing my car, working with others, or understanding business, he’s taught me to explore all avenues and take advantage. My father never gets intimidated but rather enjoys the challenge.” Even as a semifinalist for a scholarship countless students are competing for, Aayush possesses strengths in addition to weaknesses like any other student across the globe. Aayush described his abilities as “talking and collaborating with people on group projects, surprise parties, or any other activity. I’m an extremely efficient worker and get things done quickly. I have also learned that I’m good at teaching others as well”. I asked him further about his shortcomings, to which he replied, “I will not lie about the fact that I do not have a concrete deadline set in place; I tend to procrastinate, especially due to my lack of organization.”  

Academically, he is motivated by “the idea that one day, or even now, I’ll be able to help people and pave my way into this world. I get so much joy from talking, hearing improvements in others, and knowing I made a difference in people’s lives.” I asked how he would define failure because many students define it in various manners, and he responded, “I see it as a lack of perseverance for something you’re curious about or desire to do. If I want to talk to someone or learn about a concept, I fail when I lose that desire and fall victim to my laziness.”

Photo Credit: Spark Admissions

For a lot of students, scholarships are more than just financial aid. They reward deserving students with the ability to afford higher education. The honor of achieving this scholarship will help them pursue a college degree. It is inspiring to witness the achievements of so many students at ACP. Each of the semifinalists is a representation of dedication, perseverance, determination, and endurance. These individuals are people who students, myself included, look up to for the motivation to push themselves to pursue their dreams despite any setbacks. They are influential figures because of all their effort and hard work. The ACP family could not be more proud of these young individuals, who have bright futures lying ahead of them. 


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