School ranks second in Merit semifinalists

By Allegra Tepper

Forty-two seniors qualified as National Merit Scholarship semifinalists based on their PSAT/NMSQT scores, placing Harvard-Westlake second among independent schools in California, according to information from the National Merit Scholarship Corporation.

Harvard-Westlake has significantly more semifinalists this year than any other independent school in the Los Angeles area, and ranks eighth among all high schools in California.

Schools with as many or more semifinalists than Harvard-Westlake include Troy High School in Fullerton, Palo Alto High School and Mission San Jose High School.

Harker School, located in San Jose, is the only independent school in California with more semifinalists, at 50 students.

Of the 42 recipients at Harvard-Westlake, 23 are male and 19 are female. This leaves Harvard-Westlake with more female recipients than all independent girls’ schools in the Los Angeles area combined, a fact that Head of School Jeanne Huybrechts pointed out in her address to their parents on Sept. 22.

The number of students receiving semifinalist status increased by seven from last year’s 35, which upper school dean Vanna Cairns called “a significant drop [for Harvard-Westlake].”

This year’s figure sits just below Harvard-Westlake’s average of 44.4 semifinalists over the last 10 years.

Semifinalists are determined based on PSAT scores from October of students’ junior year. The top test-takers in a given state are named semifinalists, while Letters of Commendation are given out based on a national index.

The California qualifying score for the 2009 test administration was 218 out of 240 for semifinalists.

Of the 16,000 semifinalists nationwide, 15,000 students will qualify as finalists after an application process.

Students are required to fill out applications which include personal and demographic information, a personal essay and a letter of recommendation from the student’s dean.

Only 8,200 finalists will receive scholarships, which can amount to up to $2,500 per student.

Seventy-two seniors received Letters of Commendation based on their scores on the PSAT/NMSQT.

These are the 42 seniors who qualified as semifinalists:

Sam Adams

Rohun Bansal

Matthew Calvert

Katherine Casey

Jennifer Chan

Justin Chen

Monica Chen

Gavin Cook

Joseph Girton

Spencer Gisser

Spencer Gordon

Jonathan Hsu

Claresta Joe-Wong

Claire Kao

Ester Khachatryan

Jamie Kim

Ava Kofman

Spencer Koo

Brendan Kutler

Neha Nimmagadda

Michelle Nosratian

Susan Nussbaum

Cindy Ok

Yujin Park

Elijah Petzold

Alexander Popof

Joseph Rafidi

Michael Raynis

Samuel Roth

Timothy Schorr

Peter Schwartz

Lauren Seo

Matthew Share

Max Simchowitz

AJ Sugarman

Allegra Tepper

Andrew Wang

Jeffrey Wibawa

Jacob Witten

Susanna Wolk

Claudine Yee

Max Zipperman