North High students named National Merit semifinalists

December 04, 2000

North High students named National Merit semifinalists

By TARA REILLY / Staff Writer

Elizabeth Suh walked out after taking the PSATs with a bad feeling. She was ready to forget she had ever taken the prep tests to the SATs as a junior.

"I thought, oh, I bombed that so bad," said Suh, a student at North Hagerstown High School.

Jennifer Aiken, however, had an idea that she had done pretty well. Aiken, also a student at North High, said she expected to score high on the PSATs because she had done well when she took the test in 10th grade.

Well, Suh was surprised and Aiken was right on target.

Both performed so well that they were recently named semifinalists in the 45th Annual National Merit Scholarship Competition.

Suh received a combined score of 220 out of 240 on the PSAT, while Aiken scored a 227. The scores are based on three sections: verbal, math and writing. Each section is worth 80 points.


The two seniors will find out if they are finalists in December and will know if they won scholarships in the spring, they said.

In order to qualify as a finalist, students must show a high academic record, be recommended by the school principal and complete a detailed scholarship application.

Suh, 17, and Aiken, 18, said while they didn't do much to prepare for the PSATs, their high self-standards and academic backgrounds added to their success on the tests.

"I have high expectations of myself, and I only expect to get straight As," Suh said.

Suh considers herself more of an independent learner when it comes to studying, saying she sometimes strays from what her teachers assign.

"I'm really not so much of a study-oriented person," she said. "I'd rather read about subjects on my own. My teachers think I'm a slacker or something."

Regardless, she said she's proud of her high academic record.

"That's really going to be the basis for the next step in my life," Suh said.

Suh is considering attending the University of Maryland or the University of Pennsylvania after high school to major in print journalism.

Aiken, who is involved in numerous extracurricular activities, has also raised the bar in her high school studies. Seven out of her eight classes are Advanced Placement courses.

"It's a little bit more homework than I would like," she said. But she also knows that building an impressive high school record will propel her into reaching her goals. She hopes to attend either Johns Hopkins University or George Washington University and major in international relations and economics.

Aiken is active in student government on the school and county level, serves as president of student government at North High and is a student member on the Washington County Board of Education.

"I like my school, and I'm glad I go to North High," Aiken said.

The National Merit Scholarship Program is a privately financed academic competition for recognition and scholarship that began in 1955, according to a statement from the organization. High school students enter the program by taking the PSAT - which serves as an initial screening of the more than one million entrants each year - and by meeting certain requirements.

About 16,000 students, or one-third of the 50,000 high scorers, are named semifinalists. The semifinalists are chosen on a state representational basis, the statement said.

Washington County also had three students named Commended Scholars in the Merit Program. They are: Piotr Puszkiewicz, Smithsburg High School; Richard Windle, Boonsboro High School; and Timothy Wagner, North Hagerstown High School.

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