Q&A: Ten national merit scholars discuss high school, college and PSAT

Seniors+Eric+Kim%2C+Akshaya+Kummetha%2C+Delaney+Dyer%2C+Sammi+Kwon%2C++Susanna+Park%2C+Gabriela+Huerta+and+Luc+Chartier+%28left+to+right%29+pose+with+their+%22National+Merit+Finalists%22+yard+signs+at+their+Feb.+26+celebration.

Photo by Kai Fernando

Seniors Eric Kim, Akshaya Kummetha, Delaney Dyer, Sammi Kwon, Susanna Park, Gabriela Huerta and Luc Chartier (left to right) pose with their “National Merit Finalists” yard signs at their Feb. 26 celebration.

 

Every year, the National Merit Program acknowledges 15,000 seniors as National Merit Finalists for their exemplary score on the PSAT/NMSQT they took in their junior year. 

In mid-February, students received letters from the National Merit organization congratulating them on their Finalist status. Ten of Hebron’s national merit scholars reflected on their high school career and college plans.

 

Luc Chartier

Extracurriculars: Academic Decathlon, Science National Honor Society, National Honor Society, Latin Club and soccer

Intended major: Business, possibly accounting or finance

College status: Accepted into University of Texas and University of Texas at Dallas, waiting to hear from University of Pennsylvania and Rice University

What are your tips for standardized tests such as the PSAT?

“Honestly, just don’t stress about it that much. As bad as it sounds, I didn’t really study that much. The PSAT class did help me a lot. I was very strong on math. The PSAT class, especially the English section, helps a lot because my worst thing is reading comprehension. The biggest advice overall [is] don’t stress about it, keep calm and manage your time.”

What advice would you give your ninth-grade self?

“Be more outgoing. I [did not come from] a feeder school, so I didn’t really know anyone coming into Hebron. At first, I was really shy and didn’t talk to people and waited for other people to talk to me to start making those friendships. I would give the advice to be more outgoing and try to make more friendships and seize the opportunity instead of waiting on it.”

 

Delaney Dyer

Extracurriculars: Head band drum major, all-state piccolo player 

Intended major: Biochemistry pre-med

College status: Accepted into University of Arkansas and University of Texas, waiting to hear from Duke University and Northwestern University

What are your tips for standardized tests such as the PSAT?

“What helped me was taking the PSAT class. I was not great at the English section of standardized tests before I took that class, and my biggest tip [is] memorizing the strategy that they teach you, and you can even do it on your own. Process of elimination, looking for answers that are totally not related, absolutes are always a dead give away. It’s more about hacking the test than really understanding the material and taking the time to process [because] you don’t have enough time to go into everything in depth. It’s important to know the strategy and figure out which answers are definitely not correct first, so you can eliminate the wrong ones.” 

What advice would you give your ninth-grade self?

“I would give myself the advice to learn how to study better, quicker. I entered high school with the mindset that I didn’t have to study to do well, and I suffered from that, especially going right into marching season as a band student and then also taking really hard classes. I would have told myself to be better at managing my time and put the time into learning how to study better. I would also tell myself to not care so much about being perfect because after I’ve gotten into school and made all these accomplishments, I’ve realized that you don’t have to be 100% perfect all the time to do the same things.”

 

Gabriela Huerta

Extracurriculars: Computer science club and yearbook

Intended major: Computer science

College status: Attending University of Texas at Dallas 

What are your tips for standardized tests such as the PSAT?

“It’s just a lot of repetition and practice and focusing on areas you know you’re going to do bad at and just making sure those are better and better.”

What advice would you give your ninth-grade self?

“Probably not to worry and maybe step out of your shell a bit more. Everything’s not as scary as you think it is.”

 

Tyler Kerch

Extracurriculars: Band, drumline, National Honor Society, Business Professionals Association, Technology Students Association , Computer Science Club and basketball

Intended major: Computer science, possible business double major

College status: Deciding between Texas A&M University and University of Texas

What are your tips for standardized tests such as the PSAT?

“Don’t stress about it too much, and find what works for you as far as keeping your nerves in check and taking deep breaths.”

What advice would you give your ninth-grade self?

“Not everything is as important as it might seem at first. I went into high school taking everything pretty seriously. It’s really important to take things seriously, but for the most part, I overestimated the impact of a lot of things. Going into high school, I’d like to tell myself, ‘don’t worry about it too much, enjoy yourself.’ I was able to enjoy myself a lot in high school, but I think [I] definitely [had] a lot of undue stress. I’d like to tell myself, ‘just relax a little bit, it’ll be alright.’”

 

Eric Kim

Extracurriculars: Academic Decathlon, National Honor Society, Science National Honor Society, Spanish National Honor Society and church

Intended major: Possibly pre-medicine or biology

College status: Applied to Rice University, Washington University, Baylor University, University of Texas and University of Dallas

What are your tips for standardized tests such as the PSAT?

“Standardized tests have always been something that you could study for, but what you study you have to understand rather than memorize. I would recommend going through practice tests and studying through that in different ways. The PSAT, specifically, definitely the class helped. Outside of school, they’re definitely some sources whether it’s books, Princeton Review, or going to a tutoring center specifically for SAT or PSAT.”

What advice would you give your ninth-grade self?

“Mine [is] a unique case since I was moving from Tennessee to three different high schools in Texas during my freshman year. If I were to give any advice, it’d be: You’re OK, dude. You’re chilling. It’s all going to turn out alright.”

 

Akshaya Kummetha 

Extracurriculars: Academic Decathlon captain, swim, National Honor Society, Science National Honor Society and LGBTQ+ club

Intended major: Neuroscience major with a public health minor

College status: Attending University of Texas at Dallas

What are your tips for standardized tests such as the PSAT?

“I would say to run through practice tests. There is knowledge to be gained in learning the concepts, but if you set yourself with the time limits and all the parameters that you would in actual testing, it gives you a model for how you’re going to do on the test and how to work through the questions faster or what kind of questions you need help on or what topics you need to review more. It’s a much more efficient way of understanding where your weak points are and how to improve on them, too.”

What advice would you give your ninth-grade self?

“Stop thinking of your activities in school as homework and as tasks to check off at the end of the day, but training. You’re not going through the steps of high school because you want to graduate with a diploma, it’s what you’re going to do with it that matters. And in order to do that, you have to train yourself not only mentally but socially to make sure your actions match up with the impact you want to show.”

 

Sammi Kwon

Extracurriculars: Academic Decathlon, Dancing For a Cause, translates Korean freelance and animating

Intended major: Mathematics, computer science or engineering with art as a double major or minor

College status: Considering Texas A&M University, waiting to hear from other colleges

What are your tips for standardized tests such as the PSAT?

“A lot of people say repetition is key, but rather than just repeating and repeating, taking a ton of practice tests, after each practice test, [assessing] what I got wrong was really helpful. I didn’t take the PSAT team, so if there’s anyone who’s thinking ‘Oh, if I don’t get into it or if I don’t take the class then I’m not going to be able to become a National Merit Scholar,’ that’s not true. If you are given the opportunity and you have time in your schedule, I really recommend going into it, but if you can’t fit it into your schedule or if you didn’t get in, I don’t think that should be a sign that you’re not able to get National Merit.”

What advice would you give your ninth-grade self?

“Don’t be too tunnel-visioned on academics. It’s good to be ambitious, it’s good to want to get everything you can while in high school, but it should be fine to take a step back and enjoy the moment of being young, of being able to do certain things that you won’t ever be able to do again once you graduate: hanging out with friends, eating lunch. You can use those times to go to tutoring or spend an extra hour studying, and that could seem like a better investment, but something that I regret is not making as many memories as I could have. Although I do have a lot of fun moments here and there, I wish I had made more of those fun moments.”

 

Susanna Park

Extracurriculars: HOSA, TSA and church youth group

Intended major: Biochemistry or molecular biology

College status: Applied to University of Texas at Dallas, University of Texas, Rice University and more

What are your tips for standardized tests such as PSAT?

“What worked for me was studying all at once over the summer. That way throughout the few weeks of summer, you can focus intently on the test and during the school year you can focus on school.”

What advice would you give your ninth-grade self?

“Definitely buy a planner, and a really good one so you’ll be inspired to use it. Time management is key to you succeeding inside high school and later on in college education.”

 

Nicholas Scheufler

Extracurriculars: Theater, debate, piano, swimming

Intended major: Pre-medicine, biomedical or biochemical major or pre-law

College status: Accepted into University of Texas at Dallas, waiting to hear from Berkeley University and more

What are your tips for standardized tests such as PSAT?

“Honestly, take as many practice tests as you can. I did one a day on the week leading up to the PSAT. I found that really helped. I, personally, never did well with the study books, all my tests were just good enough, but that’s just me.”

What advice would you give your ninth-grade self?

“Join more clubs, get out there a little more and find what you really want to do. It took me almost an entire year to figure out what clubs I wanted to be in, mostly because I didn’t do much. I just tried to experiment and stay in my lane with school, but just experiment, have fun, try out things: freshman year is essentially your test trial period.”

 

Aidan Turner

Extracurriculars: Orchestra president, boy scouts, Young Mens’ Service League and Student Council

Intended major: Engineering

College status: Attending Texas A&M University

What are your tips for standardized tests such as PSAT?

“Make sure when you go in you’re prepared and you know your stuff. As long as you know that, just try to be confident that you know it, and try not to stress. If you feel good about an answer, don’t keep stressing about it, just try to get through the test. If you can take the PSAT class, then take it. It’s really helpful. If you can’t do that, just make sure you know what’s going to be on the test and try to learn it all the best you can.”

What advice would you give your ninth-grade self?

“I would probably tell myself not to stress as much about grades. They’re definitely important, but it’s not the end of the world if something goes wrong. It’s more important to keep your mind healthy.”

Andrew Le Prell was also a National Merit Finalist, but did not comment.