National Merit Finalists look back on accomplishment, give advice

Each year, nearly 16,000 students across the nation are chosen as a National Merit Semifinalist based on their PSAT score. Students that have a strong academic record, score high on the SAT and are well-rounded will be considered for Finalist status. The cutoff mark for the PSAT in 2014 in the state of Texas was 220 (on the old scale of 240), tied for the sixth highest in the nation. The students below made the cut and reminisce on the accomplishment.


PSAT Score: 224

Colleges applied to: Texas, Texas A&M, Alabama, Georgia Tech, Colorado School of Mines

College Attending: Texas A&M

Intended Major: Engineering

Tools for success: “I took the PSAT class, and I didn’t need to do that much outside of school because the teachers did so well in getting us prepared. My score went up 41 points because of the class.”

Advice: “From an economic standpoint, the class is worth it because it potentially saves you thousands of dollars. If you factor in how many hours we spent in that class, then we were saving hundreds of dollars each hour we put in. Take the exam seriously because this one test might give you a ton of money. You will never find a better return on investment for one test.”


PSAT Score: 222

Colleges applied to: Texas, Texas A&M, Baylor, UT-San Antonio, Rice, and UT-Dallas

College Attending: UT-Dallas

Intended Major: Biochemistry

Tools for success: “I self-studied. I bought review books and read through them. The most important part was that I took a lot of practice tests. I went over what I got wrong and wrote down what type of questions I kept missing. I looked at those questions and continued to work on them.”

Advice: “I feel that people spend too much time studying basics. If you already have the basics down, you shouldn’t keep going over those same materials. Practice is the only way that you can improve and track the things that you continually miss. If you want to be a finalist, make sure you’re well-rounded and active in extracurricular activities.”


PSAT Score: 220

Colleges applied to: University of Penn, Cornell, Brown, Duke, Rice, Harvard, Yale, Princeton, MIT

College Attending: Duke

Intended Major: Chemistry, Energy Engineering, and Religious Studies

Tools for success: “I’ve been going to KD College Prep since my freshman year.”

Advice: “Be comfortable with the sacrifices you have to make to find success.”


PSAT Score: 225

Colleges applied to: Texas A&M, Texas, Baylor, Rice, Oklahoma, Duke, University of Penn

College Attending: Texas

Intended Major: Neuroscience

Tools for success: “I went to extensive PSAT classes at KD College Prep starting the summer of sophomore year and I also took the PSAT class here at Hebron, which gave me a lot of practice.”

Advice: “Take a lot of practice tests. Use it as preparation for the SAT and ACT.”


PSAT Score: 220

Colleges applied to: Harvard, Yale, Texas

College Attending: Texas

Intended Major: Management Information Systems

Tools for success: “I went to KD College Prep, but my main focus was on the SAT. It still helped with my PSAT preparation. I took two practice tests the night before and realized that the PSAT is pretty different than the SAT. It was a long night.”

Advice: “Hard work pays off so put in your best effort, but don’t stress over questions. Success comes from peace of mind. Numbers don’t define you.”


PSAT Score: 223

Colleges applied to: Oklahoma, Texas, Baylor, Arkansas, University of Penn

College Attending: University of Penn

Intended Major: Nursing

Tools for success: “The best preparation I did was the PSAT class at the school. I didn’t do much outside preparation. I didn’t know if all the work I put in helped me get into Penn or not, but it didn’t hurt.”

Advice: “Take the class at the school because it is free and easily available. Take advantage of it and it will provide you with a lot of opportunities.”


PSAT Score: 228

Colleges applied to: MIT, Cal-Tech, Texas

College Attending: Texas

Intended Major: Aerospace Engineering

Tools for success: “I just went in and my score jumped up 20 points from the previous year. I’m not sure what happened. I took some SAT classes at KD College Prep, but not the PSAT classes.”

Advice: “Practice and figure out what you’re doing wrong and what you’re doing right, then focus on what you’re doing wrong. I always did poorly on the vocabulary section because I didn’t know most of the words, so I must have gotten lucky on this test.”


PSAT Score: 221

Colleges applied to: Oklahoma, Texas A&M, Texas

College Attending: Oklahoma

Intended Major: Biology

Tools for success: “I took the PSAT class at the school. It was a really good class. Mrs. Rooks and Mr. O’Brien gave me all the materials that I needed to study. My score went up about 30 points thanks to their class.”

Advice: “Put effort in and the end result will be worth it.”


 PSAT Score: 231

Colleges Applied to: Texas A&M, Texas, Purdue, Illinois, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

College Attending: Texas A&M

Intended Major: Electrical Engineering

Tools for success: “I was invited to the PSAT class taught by Mrs. Rooks and Mr. O’Brien and I was in the class for nine weeks. It really helped because although I didn’t really need help with math, the class gave vocabulary words and allowed me to practice English portions of the test.”

Advice: “Take a class to help you prepare for the PSAT. The class at Hebron helped me a lot.”