4 Seniors from Marjory Stoneman Douglas Named National Merit Semifinalists
National Merit Scholarship Semifinalists: Mirza Zuhayr, Zachary Weissman, Veronica Melei, guidance director, Michelle Kefford, principal, Lexi Schwartzberg, and Raegan DiRenzo.

By Ivy Lam

Following over a year and a half of virtual learning, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students have just recently returned to physical classrooms. Among these individuals are four seniors who have been named National Merit Semifinalists.

In early September, approximately 16,000 students were notified of their newfound status. The four from MSD include Raegan DiRenzo, Lexi Schwartzberg, Zachary Weissman, and Mirza Zuhayr.

When I first received the news, I was pretty surprised, but I was very excited and proud to see my hard work had paid off,” said Zuhayr.

According to the National Merit Scholarship Corporation, the number of semifinalists per state varies every year. Nonetheless, their scores when they took the PSAT/NMSQT in their junior year were highly commendable.

I was very surprised because it definitely was not something that I was expecting. I really wasn’t counting on getting it, so I honestly didn’t even know much about what National Merit was or what it meant to be a semifinalist,” said DiRenzo.

For these individuals, SAT preparation beforehand improved their knowledge and understanding of the test material and format. Education companies such as College Board and Khan Academy also offered numerous resources for those who wanted extra practice.

I didn’t do any practice specifically for the PSAT, but I studied a lot for the SAT (including several practice tests), and much of that material prepared me for the PSAT,” said Schwartzberg.

Moreover, the Class of 2022 was online for the entirety of their junior year, which is often considered the most rigorous time in high school. The extended time at home proved advantageous and/or disadvantageous to their studying habits and daily activities.

COVID-19 definitely impacted my preparation because staying at home all day during that year heavily demotivated me to work, but I managed to power through. It was very tiring sometimes,” said Zuhayr.

The next step is fulfilling several requirements to become a National Merit Finalist and receive a $2,500 scholarship. Applicants must fill out the application online and submit an SAT score, a letter of recommendation, a transcript, and a personal essay.

I’m extremely proud of my accomplishment and honored to have received it, but I want others to know that a standardized test score does not define you and definitely won’t matter ten years from now, so don’t sweat it if you didn’t get the score you were hoping for,” said DiRenzo.

MSD’s four semifinalists all plan to attend college after graduation. They also hope that this accomplishment will give them an advantage for college applications and future tuition.

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