So you think you’re smarter than a National Merit Scholar?


Provided By: Samantha Kowalski (12)

Samantha Kowalski (12) and Mary Beggs (12) stand in front of Lake Central’s sign which recognizes their achievement as National Merit Scholar semi-finalists. The two girls are the only ones at Lake Central to receive this honor this year.

Alayna Wallace and Alayna Wallace

Thousands of students from across the country put in hard work, hoping that their test scores will prove them exceptional enough to be recognized as a National Merit Scholar.

Samantha Kowalski (12) and Mary Beggs (12) were the only two Lake Central students out of those thousands to become semi-finalists.

“About 16,000 students are selected as semifinalists, then from that pool, 15,000 are designated as finalists. We had to take the SAT and submit scores to them,” Beggs said.

The first step to becoming a National Merit Scholar is knowing how best to prepare oneself for the PSAT.

“I took probably a dozen practice tests. It’s really good to go into it knowing each section, not even having to read the directions to do it. It’s almost like a formula because you know what questions are going to be on there. I just relax a couple of days before because confidence is everything. It’s 99 percent confidence, one percent studying,” Kowalski said.

After receiving a qualifying score, an application process entails.

“I had to fill out an application and write an essay. Mr. [Sean] Begley, [Freshmen Center Principal], had to write a letter of recommendation, and now we’re just waiting for the results,” Beggs said.

Applying for distinguished scholarships and being recognized as a semi-finalist is not something that happens overnight. High school students must dedicate themselves to reaching their full potential academically.

“My work ethic is that I give 100 percents. Not for the awards or the recognition, it’s for wanting to do the very best that I am capable of because that’s where I want to go in life. I want to do everything that I am capable of and do whatever it takes to get there,” Kowalski said.