Three Cy Woods students named National Merit Semifinalists

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Seniors Tavi Khandekar, Phuc Le and Benjamin Yonas became National Merit Semifinalists on Sept. 15. For 67 years, the National Merit Scholarship Program has awarded academically gifted students scholarships based on PSAT and SAT scores. 


Approximately 1.5 million students entered the National Merit Program; however, only the top one percent became semifinalists. Out of the 16,000 semifinalists, CFISD housed 13, and three of those students are housed by Cy Woods. 


¨I wanted to use the opportunity to start early and I studied a lot to get the scores I wanted,¨ Yonas said. ¨I wanted to get a good score to get into competitive schools.¨


To prepare for the PSAT, all three semifinalists studied for a considerable amount of time before the test, using many various techniques.


¨I did a test master class and independent study to prepare for the test because I wanted to make sure I got a high score,¨ Khandekar said. 


All three students used Khan Academy, a website focused on education, to study and review.


¨I spent 15 minutes every few days on Khan Academy to review math problems that I was struggling with,¨ Le said. ¨It really helped build my confidence.¨


Even after preparing for the test for months, Le was still unsure that he would become a semifinalist.


“I was a little worried because I wasn’t sure that I scored high enough for National Merit, but luckily it worked out,¨ Le said.


Once the PSAT scores came back, Yonas felt like his hard work had paid off. 


¨I didn’t have an expression on my face when I saw the scores because I was so relieved,¨ Yonas said. ¨It wasn’t until later that it really hit me.¨


All three of the semifinalists are planning to attend college and study within the STEM sector.


¨I’m looking forward to going to college,¨ Le said. ¨I’d like to get a job in computer science or biomedical engineering.¨


To become a finalist, the semifinalists must submit an application, write an essay and have an endorsement from a high school official. The finalists will be announced in February, and the winners will be announced in July. The National Merit Scholar Program will award over 7,500 scholarships, worth over $30 million.