9 LAHS Students Qualify for 2014 National Merit Scholarship Program

Today, September 10, The National Merit Scholarship Program announced that 26 seniors from the Mountain View Los Altos High School District—nine from LAHS and 17 from MVHS—have qualified as National Merit Semifinalists.

Annually, 1.5 million students take part in the National Merit Semifinalist program by taking the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT), which is a standardized test that measures critical reading, mathematics and writing skills (the same as the SAT) and is administered by the College Board. National Merit Semifinalists represent the top one percent of applicants in the nation.

“It is quite an honor to be named a National Semifinalist,” Superintendent Barry Groves said. “To receive that honor, a senior has to have achieved the top one percent of scores as a junior on the Preliminary Scholarship Achievement Test (PSAT).  Then the semifinalists must submit their transcripts and an essay to qualify for National Merit Finalist Honors.”

The process of advancing to become a Finalist includes “hav[ing] an outstanding academic record throughout high school, be[ing] endorsed and recommended by the high school principal, and earn[ing] SAT scores that confirm the student’s earlier performance on the qualifying test,” according to a district press released earlier today. Students will apply to become National Merit Finalists in hopes of receiving a part of the 8,300 National Merit Scholarships worth more than $48 million in the spring of 2015.

An estimated 90 percent of Semifinalists will go on to reach Finalist standing, while another 50 percent of Finalists will be awarded National Merit Scholarships and the Merit Scholar title.

On top of providing students with many opportunities, the National Merit Scholarship Program schools also plays a role in how colleges assess high schools.

“Having many successful National Merit Scholars is important to the school in terms of how colleges rank high schools,” Groves said. “ This number, along with other metrics, are used by college admissions officers to assess the academic rigor of high schools. During the admissions process, it is advantageous for applicants to have attended a high quality academic high school.”

Even so, according to National Merit Scholarship Coordinator Ariel Rojas, the focus should remain on the students.

“Of course, for the school, it’s very important because it depicts our school as a very good academic school. But it’s more about the students and what it shows about the academic rigor that the student takes; being a  semifinalist… or a finalist is a great thing; it’s a great honor,” Rojas said. “They’re the [top] one percent in the United States. It shows the quality of work that [they] are doing, the quality of education at the school.”

Semifinalists will also receive awards at the school’s Senior Awards Night ceremony in May, 2015.

“This group of remarkable seniors at Los Altos High School certainly deserves this recognition for their outstanding performance on last year’s PSAT,” National Merit Scholarship Coordinator Maryann Smetzer said. “It is a credit to the students, their parents and Los Altos High School. We are pleased to announce their achievements and look forward to formally honoring them at our Senior Awards Night in May.”

This year’s semifinalists from Los Altos High School (LAHS) are:

Maya S. Acharya

Chang Cui

Albert W. Li

Katherine Liu

Alexander Mao

Meredith Soward

Ashwin Vaidyanathan

David Wu

Ryan Wu


This year’s semifinalists from Mountain View High School (MVHS) are:

Jillian Burns

Emily J. Chao

Rebecca C. Chen

Jasmine S. Deng

Anthony A. Ebbs

Emma O. Frerichs

Stella N. Ge

Carina C. Gwennap

Lakshya Jain

Connor A. Keane

Elizabeth K. Leung

Morgan E. McLain-Smith

Daniel J. Petti

Alexander J. Stroud

Veda Sunkara

Eldon K. Tay

Nisha J. Uppuluri.