National Merit Semifinalist essay
Posted by Dee
As I may or may not have said already, I was indeed a National Merit Finalist, but before becoming a finalist, you must get to the semi-finalist level by qualifying through your PSAT/NMSQT score.
Once you get to the semi-finalist round, there’s a pretty decent application process to go through in order to be selected as a finalist.
First, you’ll submit your grades to the College Board. (They want to make sure that you didn’t just get to the semi-finalist round by accident or random stroke of luck on the PSAT/NMSQT, and that you actually have some smarts to back up your high scores.)
Then, they ask you to list your extracurriculars as well as honors and recognitions. (Sometimes these may seem pretty similar, but I always considered awards and prizes to be honors and recognitions whereas extracurricular activities would be the clubs or organizations you participate in. There may be some overlap between the two categories occasionally. Maybe they changed the forms within the past few years, but when I filled it out I found that there was very little space, so plan out what you’re writing before! Be concise, and figure out if it will be better to type it or write it out by hand.)
Finally, there’s the essay. (I didn’t find it too daunting myself. Some people I know decided to focus on one particular aspect of their lives or one specific activity that had a large affect on their lives. This works just as well as what I did, which was write more generally on several aspects of my life and a few activities that were important to me. Remember you’re limited by space, and you don’t want to have a dry, boring essay, so try to at least give it a creative aspect, whether that comes through in the tone of the writing, the intro and conclusion, or the content itself.)
Also, the College Board, as usual, can be confusing with deadlines and requirements, so make sure you understand exactly what you need to do with the form. I remember that our school’s counselors stressed that they would give you only one copy, so don’t mess it up!