Erie’s Extraordinary Students

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Last October, ACP’s Class of 2021 took their last PSAT/NMSQT (Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test). The test, often seen as practice for the even heftier SAT, presents any student with the option to qualify for the National Merit Scholarship (hence the mouthful ‘NMSQT’ of its name). After taking the PSAT, around 16,000 students across the U.S. are chosen for the semifinals. Five of those 16,000 semifinalists just so happen to be our own Knights.

Brian Gibson, Dominic Gnecco, Connor Kantrud, Kristin Myer, and Nikhil Dave are all semifinalists for the 2019-2020 National Merit Scholarship. Here to tell us a little more about the specifics of the scholarship and the hard work required is Kristin Myer:

Q: How did you feel finding out you were a National Merit Scholarship semifinalist?

A: I was really excited to hear about being a semifinalist! The National Merit Scholarship Corporation didn’t release the semifinalist information until September 2020, which is almost a year after I took the PSAT (the test that determines who qualifies to compete in the National Merit Scholarship Competition), so it had been a while since I had thought about the PSAT. When Mr. Bickes, along with Mrs. Dalton and Dr. Vezzosi, gave me a congratulatory call last week, I was super happy to hear the news.

Q: How did you celebrate your accomplishment?

A: I haven’t had the chance to celebrate too much, but I did go pick up a celebratory chocolate chip cookie from Crumbl with my sister this weekend! What better way to celebrate than dessert, right?

Q: How did you study to achieve this honor? Do you have any tips?

A: In previous years, I took the PSAT to become more familiar with the questions, even though it is only possible to qualify for scholarships from the junior-year score. Also, in the days leading up to the test, I took several full-length practice tests. Regarding tips, the most important thing is to get exposure to the question types and practice, practice, practice. One of the most challenging parts of standardized test-taking is simply being able to focus on the questions for long periods of time; the PSAT requires almost three hours of concentration, while tests like the SAT can take up to four hours, including the essay. It takes time to get used to remaining focused on multiple-choice questions for that long. It also helps to get used to the different question types for the reading and writing sections. For math, get familiar with tips like working backward on questions, plugging in answer choices to the questions, and skipping confusing or complicated questions to avoid running out of time.

Kristin with some of her friends. Photo courtesy of Kristin Myer.

Q: What is the process for becoming a finalist?

A: To become a finalist, I need to submit an online application by October 7th with a lot more details about my extracurricular involvement, academics, and a personal essay. Then, in either February or March, the National Merit Scholarship Corporation will notify the students that have been selected as Finalists. It’s a bit of a wait to see what the final results are, but I’m happy to have qualified as a semifinalist and looking forward to seeing how it goes!

Q: What was your favorite letter to bubble in? Why? What’s your go-to letter when you have to make a guess?

A: I’ve never really thought about that before, but I think my favorite letter to bubble in is the last one on the test. Regardless of which letter it is, that final bubble reminds me that I made it through the test. As far as a go-to letter for guessing, most questions have two answers that just don’t fit, so I typically eliminate those answers first. Then, I just go with whichever answer seems right or take a 50/50 guess. On the chance that I run out of time on a standardized test, I would just go with the classic bubbling “C” all the way down for the unanswered questions.

Q: Now for a fun question. Would you rather lose your feet or your hands for a day? Why?

A: I think I would rather lose my feet for a day. I would probably just sit on a couch and catch-up on watching some shows on Netflix! (I would need my hands to pick a show to watch.)

A huge thank you to Kristin for taking the time to answer these few questions on her accomplishment! Cheers to the rest of the National Merit Scholarship semifinalists: Brian Gibson, Dominic Gnecco, Connor Kantrud, and Nikhil Dave. Congratulations, Knights! Keep up the great work!