Eleven Foothill seniors snatch national honors

Seniors Jim Bern and Sam ODonnell discuss the PSAT and how they became National Merit Finalists. Alex Phelps/The Foothill Dragon Press.

Gemma Stoll

Seniors Jim Bern and Sam O'Donnell discuss the PSAT and how they became National Merit Finalists. Alex Phelps/The Foothill Dragon Press.
Seniors Jim Bern and Sam O’Donnell discuss the PSAT and how they became National Merit Finalists. Alex Phelps/The Foothill Dragon Press.

It’s no secret – the winners have been announced!  The following Foothill seniors have received the status of “Commended Students” from the National Merit Scholarship Corporation: Colin Crilly, Galen Egan, Bryce Hawks, Lucas Holifield, Michael Huang, Jacqueline Kroll, So Youn “Michelle” Lee, Sabrina Partridge, and Erika Stutts. 

These students were given this honor because of their scores on the PSAT/NMSQT (Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test).  To achieve the status of a Commended Student, students must meet the few requirements for National Merit Scholars and take the PSAT in their junior year of high school, and score in the top five percent of the students in the state.

But there’s more: two Foothill students have received an even higher honor.  Sam O’Donnell and Jim Bern are applicants for National Merit Finalists. 

Finalists meet all the requirements of Commended students, except that their scores fall in with the top two percent of the state.  Then an application is completed by the student and the school to receive the “Finalist” status.  Finalists must also have good grades and extra-curricular activities – like submitting a mini college application.  These finalists compete even further for $2,500 per year scholarships.

Sam O’Donnell received an urgent call slip in September.  The first thought he had was, “I’m not expelled, am I?”  In fact, the office was anxious to tell him the good news.  O’Donnell advises not to study for the PSAT.  “Once you know the question format, you’re golden.” 

Bern, O’Donnell’s friend and fellow finalist, has similar advise.  “Take the practice test, maybe get a prep book,” he said.  “The writing section was the hardest, though the test wasn’t that difficult.” 

But what’s the real difference between the PSAT and the infamous SAT?  Bern, who has already taken the SAT twice, replies: “The PSAT is much shorter than the SAT, so sometimes it’s hard to focus.  The tests are very actually pretty similar.”

What do you think?