Four FHN Students Became Semifinalists in the 2018 National Merit Scholarship Program


Eight seniors qualified as National Merit Semifinalists in FHSD. Four FHN seniors qualified: Madeline Fields, Noah Slaughter, Caitlind Walker and Daniel Xiang. (image from the FHN website)

By Sarah Zimmerman

Millions of students sat through the hours of testing. Millions of students waited months to see their scores. Millions of students were not Semifinalists in the 2018 National Merit Scholarship Program. Yet out of the millions of students who took the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT) last year, four FHN students placed in the top 16,000 students, making them Semifinalists.

“It was great,” College and Career counselor Brooke Prestidge said. “Obviously you could see they were very excited about it when they found out. I think they all value the opportunities they’ve had here at school and have taken full advantage of it, so being selected as a National Merit Semifinalist, which is very rare, is a huge accomplishment. I think they understood that, so that was exciting for me. It was fun to see how excited they were that they just heard that news.”

These excited students included seniors Madeline Fields, Noah Slaughter, Caitlind Walker and Daniel Xiang. Becoming National Merit Semifinalists means that each of them is one of the highest scoring entrants of the PSAT in Missouri, and each individual also scored in the top one percent in the country. As difficult as it is to place that high, two semifinalists- Fields and Slaughter- found their success by not agonizing over the exam.

“I actually think I did better by not stressing myself out over it because then I wasn’t all consumed with my score and how I did,” Slaughter said. “I just took it and wanted to do well, but I knew that I would get a certain score, and I would get something or not get something. How I did on that test didn’t define me, so I just did the best I could, and I ended up doing well, so it paid off.”

The recognition is not the only benefit of scoring so well on the PSAT, but semifinalists also have the opportunity to receive some scholarships from select schools.

“It was nice,” Fields said. “It was like my years of high school were all coming together. I mean I work hard, I pay attention in class, I get good grades. It felt like that was paying off in a way that would help me in college.”

Scoring high may pay off more and even bring the semifinalists to new heights if they become National Merit Finalists. In order to achieve this, however, each semifinalist must go through a long application process. A process that includes submitting a detailed application with their academic record, extracurricular information, honors or awards received, employment and community activities. Not only that, but each semifinalist must also write an essay, get a compelling letter of recommendation from a counselor and take the SAT to confirm their previous PSAT performance.

“It’s a long process, but I think it will pay off in the end whether I get the actual scholarship or not,” Slaughter said. “It’s just nice to be recognized.”