By Gregory Marzano
Becoming a National Merit scholar is no easy feat. Over 3.5 million high school juniors take the PSAT, or National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test, each fall and only 15,000 students qualify as National Merit finalists. Senior Khushi Shah has defied the seemingly impossible odds and has qualified for National Merit recognition.
Source from Khushi Shah Senior Khushi Shah has been named a National Merit scholarship final and will be attending Northeastern University in the fall.
Q. What does it mean to be a National Merit finalist?
Khushi Shah: When you’re a National Merit finalist, you’re part of a group of 15,000 students who get considered for scholarships from the National Merit Scholarship Corporation, individual colleges and universities, or private businesses.
Q. How were you able to accomplish this great achievement?
KS: I had already spent the summer after sophomore year studying for the SAT and since the PSAT, on which National Merit is based, is extremely similar to the SAT, I was able to study for both at the same time. A big part of being successful on these types of tests is practice because you have to know the format of these questions and how to take the test. Once you get your strategies down, you just have to apply them!
Q. What advice do you have for students trying to become National Merit finalists?
KS: I would advise aspiring National Merit finalists to start studying early - no earlier than the end of sophomore year, though! - so that they can get as much practice as possible. Some people wait to take the SAT until spring of junior year but I definitely recommend taking it in the fall or winter so your preparation counts for both the SAT and the PSAT, and so you have time to take it again if you want to. On test day, don’t let anyone throw you off your game and don’t bring yourself down — know that you’ve practiced and that you’re prepared! Don’t skip any questions and make educated guesses if you have to. For the reading section especially, remember that the correct answer must be stated directly in the passage; you shouldn’t have to make inferences or generalizations.
Q. What keeps you motivated?
KS: I’m motivated by the prospect of future opportunities and of making my hard work pay off. The pandemic made it really easy to lose motivation and while I can definitely relate, I’ve been able to get my motivation up by remembering what I’m working towards and what kind of life I want to live one day. Giving yourself a mental break can be everything during stressful times such as this one, so be kind to yourself!