Please note the following news article is entirely student-produced, with only minor editing by CCC staff, as part of our Communication Interns Club. To see more student-created work, follow our school social media accounts and look for the “CCC Student Made” watermark.

Author: Melania Vazquez, CCC Class of 2024

Are you ready for the upcoming PSAT? The PSAT is administered to CCC students from grades 9-11 this upcoming Wednesday (Oct. 12, 2022) during National PSAT Day. But what does this mean? 

For all students, this is a great way to see where you’re at in standardized testing. It’s not the “official” SAT – meaning this score won’t be sent to colleges – so don’t worry too much! 

However, these scores are still important for juniors and even sophomores taking the test. There is a fantastic opportunity for juniors called The National Merit Scholarship Program. 

The National Merit Scholarship Program receives every 11th grader’s PSAT score. Only junior year results are sent to the National Merit Scholarship Corporation. The top 50,000 scores are either recognized as Commended Students or Semifinalists. The Semifinalists must then meet certain requirements to become a National Merit Finalist and around 95% of Semifinalists become Finalists. National Merit Scholars are made up of the 1,500 students who took the test. The National Merit awards give students scholarship opportunities, and they are very impressive to colleges during the admission process. 

This Fall, qualifying Seniors were notified of their National Merit status. CCC has two National Merit Semifinalists and three students who have received National Merit Commendations in the senior class. 

Katherine Phy is one of the two seniors that is a National Merit Finalist at CCC. She has answered some questions regarding her story. 

Q: When did you set up the goal to become National Merit? 

KP: I set the goal to become a National Merit Scholar in the spring when we first began participating in the Ray Dass Merit Program to improve our test-taking strategies. 

Q: How did you feel finding out that you were a National Merit Semifinalist? 

KP: I felt very excited that my hard work paid off when I found out I was a National Merit Semifinalist. 

Q: How did you find out about this opportunity? 

KP: I found out about this opportunity through my school. Many of my upperclassmen friends studied to do well on the PSAT, and CCC introduced us to the Ray Dass Merit Program to help us prepare for the PSAT. 

Q: How/when did you prepare for the PSAT? 

KP: I started preparing for the PSAT in March of my sophomore year, which was the spring before the junior year PSAT date. I prepared for the PSAT by actively participating in the Ray Dass Merit Program, focusing on the strategies being taught and taking practice SATs. 

Q: Would you say that CCC has prepared you for the National Merit program? 

A: CCC definitely prepared me to become a National Merit Semifinalist by introducing me to the Ray Dass Merit Program, which dramatically improved my test scores. Additionally, the rigorous courses and excellent teachers at CCC also prepared me to be a National Merit Semifinalist. 

Q: What classes prepared you best for the PSAT?

A: My math classes and English classes at CCC have prepared me best for the PSAT because those are the subjects the test focuses on. 

Q: Do you feel well-prepared for college? 

A: I do feel well prepared for college. By studying to do well on the PSAT, I improved my SAT test-taking strategies as well, allowing me to earn a high score and to feel prepared for the challenging classes I will take in college. 

Q: Has being a National Merit Semifinalist offered you more opportunities? 

KP: Being a National Merit Semifinalist has definitely offered me more opportunities by making colleges aware of my academic achievement and opening up scholarship opportunities for me. 

Q: Do you have any tips for anyone taking the PSAT? 

KP: My best advice for anyone taking the PSAT would be to not stress during the test if you do not know the answer. It wastes time, and it is better to mark the answer you think is best and come back to it after you have done the rest of the questions. 

Q: What will you miss from CCC when you graduate? 

A: I will miss the entire CCC community when I graduate, including the faculty and staff as well as my classmates and underclassmen. I will miss the cross-country team, soccer team, and all the exciting events that have provided me with unforgettable memories with people important to me. 

Q: Do you have any plans for after you graduate? 

KP: After I graduate, I plan to study biomedical engineering and medical sciences in college, and I hope to become a doctor. 

Senior Fatima Celis Galindo received a National Merit Commendation this year. I wanted to learn more about her story, so she has also answered some questions regarding National Merit. 

Q: When did you set up the goal to become a National Merit qualifier? 

FCG: I knew I wanted to earn the National Merit Award after I took the PSAT my sophomore year. 

Q: How did you feel after receiving the National Merit Commendation letter? 

FCG: I was ecstatic because I finally saw the results of my hard work and dedication. It was a moment of pure bliss followed by gratitude for all the support I had received. 

Q: How did you find out about this opportunity? 

FCG: I found out about National Merit from the students in the grade level above mine. 

Q: How/when did you prepare for the PSAT? 

FCG: I prepared every single day from March through October of 2021. I would join every single Ray Dass Zoom lesson, about two to three times per week, and take a practice test on Saturdays during this period of time. 

Q: Would you say that CCC prepared you for National Merit? 

FCG: Absolutely! CCC instilled in me a level of discipline that is necessary to prepare for the material. CCC’s constant motivation also encouraged me to keep on studying. 

Q: What classes best prepared you for the PSAT/SAT?

FCG: I owe my mastery of the math portions of the SAT to my math teacher Ms. Noyes. My English teachers also prepared me very well to annotate reading passages and analyze grammatical questions. 

Q: Do you feel well prepared for college? 

FCG: I know that by being in CCC’s IB Diploma Program, I am prepared for not only college but also life beyond my years of academic studies. I know that as with any other major steps in life, there will be moments of uncertainty and stress, but I feel confident that I will excel in college just as I have in high school. 

Q: Has being a National Merit finalist offered you more opportunities? 

FCG: As of now, I have not received more opportunities from the National Merit. 

Q: Do you have any tips for anyone taking the PSAT? 

FCG: I highly recommend you dedicate the time to familiarize yourself with the structure and timing of the test. Remember that it is okay to not have a perfect score, but always try your best in any situation. 

Q: What will you miss from CCC when you graduate? 

FCG: I will miss the small family atmosphere of CCC and the close relationships I have made these past four years most of all. 

Q: Do you have any plans for after you graduate? 

FCG: After I graduate from CCC, I plan on attending the University of Florida. My dream is to study business and start a marketing firm for major businesses in the country. However, my main goal in life is to start a family of my own. 

It’s an amazing sight to see when a student’s hard work finally pays off. For other students, the testing day might’ve seemed like any other day, but for the five seniors who received awards, this was an extraordinary opportunity. It’s obvious that both Fatima and Katherine have a very bright future ahead of them. I can’t wait to see where their potential takes them! 

Melania Vazquez
CCC Class of 2024