Two students earn National Merit recognition

Max Herre/Staff Writer

Acing the ACT college entrance exam last spring, seniors Michael Miller and Sam Condon have continued their mastery of standardized testing with top notch PSAT scores this year.
Every year, approximately 1.5 million students across the country take the PSAT test as an entrance test for the National Merit Program. The National Merit Scholarship Program is an academic competition for recognition and scholarships.

Of the 1.5 million students, about 50,000 with the highest PSAT/ NMSQT scores qualify for recognition in the National Merit Scholarship Program.

In April, high-scoring participants from every state are invited to name two colleges or universities to which they would like to be referred by NMSC.

In early September, Miller and Condon, along with 50,000 high scorers across the country, were notified that they qualified as National Merit Scholarship Semifinalists. To be considered for a National Merit Scholarship, they must advance to Finalist standing in the competition by meeting high academic standards.

All winners of Merit Scholarship awards are chosen from the Finalist group, based on their abilities, skills and accomplishments.

A variety of information is available for NMSC selectors to evaluate-the Finalist’s academic record, information about the school’s curricula and grading system, two sets of test scores, school officials’ written recommendations, information about the student’s activities and leadership, and the Finalist’s own essay.

Even though both have taken challenging classes and earn excellent grades, they were somewhat surprised with their PSAT scores.

“I was pretty surprised,” Condon said. ”I remember that there was one math question that I completely screwed up on, and 10 minutes after the test finished, I knew what I did wrong and that it should have been really obvious. Luckily, I still managed to get a good score overall,”
“I knew I did pretty well when I got the PSAT results, but I didn’t really know what all the numbers meant since the National Merit Scholarship Program thing was announced like a year later.” Miller said.

Miller isn’t sure yet which college he will attend.

“(My first choice) is probably Goshen College, a Mennonite school in Indiana. My plans for the future are to go to a probably smaller, liberal arts college and keep career options open and then work with a service organization, such as Christian Peacemaker Teams, abroad,” Miller said.
Condon hasn’t made his final decision. “I’m torn,” he said.”I either want to go into science or law. It kind of helps that a four-year science degree is a good prerequisite to a law school, so I can keep my options open.” Condon said.

Condon does want to go to Iowa State University in Ames.

While both Condon and Miller carry a 4.0 grade point average, they are well-rounded individuals with a variety of activities and interests. Condon likes to “ read a lot, for starters.”
Miller’s hobbies include “reading, playing music and sports, biking, working on his church’s website, being with friends and ‘Baracking’ the vote.” At school, he is in marching and jazz bands, cross country, choir, soccer, ALPHA, robotics and senior leadership. Out of school, Miller is involved in Teen Trust, a youth philanthropy group and his church’s youth group. He is also a volunteer usher at the Gallagher-Bluedorn Theatre.

Regarding advice for others attempting high stakes standardized testing, Miller said,” I dunno—eat a good breakfast, get a good night’s sleep and think happy thoughts.”
“Don’t stress out over the test. It won’t help at all, and you may miss some obvious things if you’re too worried,” was Condon’s advice.

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