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The Harvard-Westlake Chronicle

The Student News Site of Harvard-Westlake School

The Harvard-Westlake Chronicle

The Student News Site of Harvard-Westlake School

The Harvard-Westlake Chronicle

National merit semifinalists released

Eva Park

The National Merit Scholarship Corporation selected over 16,000 National Merit Semifinalists across the country, including 34 members of the Class of 2024, based on students’ PSAT/NMSQT scores. To become a Semifinalist in California, students had a score of at least 221, a one point increase from last year.

The school has the eighth most Semifinalists of any school in California, and has the second highest percentage of students achieving the honor of the top eight schools, only behind Lynbrook High School in San Jose. The school’s 34 finalists also greatly outnumbers other independent schools in the area, such as Marlborough with three finalists and Brentwood with four. Head of Upper School Beth Slattery said she is happy the school performed so well.

“We did well compared to some of our peer institutions, as a percentage, and we always do,” Slattery said. “I’m proud of that, but I don’t want to make it into too big of a thing.”

Over 1.3 million students took the test around the country, with 1.2% of all students nationwide earning the honor. Within the class of 2024, 11.8% were named Semifinalists. President Rick Commons said while the test does not fully measure a student’s capabilities, he is still pleased with the high number of students who earned the honor.

“I’m proud of the high number of students who achieved that distinction,” Commons said. “It reflects the academic talent that is in our student body. We all understand that standardized testing is a measure of one kind of academic ability. So I understand why some people might question how worthwhile it is to celebrate that total. But I’m still proud of the academic ability that it reflects in our community.”

Similarly to Commons, Slattery said she is happy for those who achieved the Semifinalist honor while recognizing that it is not fully encompassing of a student.

“I always want to balance not diminishing the accomplishment of kids who achieved this, and also not inflating it into the most important thing that ever happened,” Slattery said. “To do well on a thing on one particular morning during your junior year, shouldn’t be equated with people’s academic performance. Somebody not being a finalist doesn’t have a negative impact on their college application process. I’m happy for the kids who did it, and I’m proud that we have so many of them. And also, it’s also okay to not be one.”

Sophia Vourakis ’24, who was named as a Semifinalist, said despite the competitiveness of this time of year, the community around her has been positive.

“A lot of my friends didn’t take the PSAT, so it hasn’t really been a big subject of conversation for the people around me,” Vourakis said. “Going to a school like Harvard-Westlake, there’s going to be competitiveness in that area. Even though our school can get a bit tricky with competitiveness in the college season, my group of friends is really amazing in that we’re all super supportive of each other in all of our achievements.”

Omar Rivera ’24 said he thinks the community doesn’t foster an environment that overvalues receiving National Merit.

“I feel like school culture does not prioritize being a National Merit [Semifinalist],” Rivera said. “The kids who do earn it don’t really talk about it, and it’s not really something that people care about, whether they win or not.”

Curtis Ahn ’24 said although he is disappointed he didn’t earn the honor, he is happy that others in the school did well.

“It’s a bit frustrating because my score was close,” Ahn said. “But, I don’t feel that our school is super competitive about it. I think the school is just naturally inclined to doing well on it, which is good.”

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