National Merit Semifinalists announced


Twenty-three Pioneer students were named National Merit semifinalists for the 2021-22 school year.

Twenty-three Pioneer students qualified for the National Merit Scholarship, the highest number of semifinalists for a high school in Washtenaw County and the Ann Arbor Public Schools.

Around 16,000 students qualified as semifinalists nationwide, which constitutes the top 1% of test scorers of the PSAT/NMSQT that students took as juniors in October 2020. Each state had a different cutoff score that was primarily determined by exam participation rates. Students who scored above their state’s cutoff were deemed qualifiers.

Semifinalist and Pioneer senior Haesue Baik anticipated her result before the school’s official announcement, as speculations about Michigan’s cutoff score had appeared on blog posts.

“I kind of suspected it, but when I finally got my score, it was really exciting,” Baik said.

Due to Covid, Pioneer offered the October 2020 PSAT as optional, compared to the past when all juniors were required to take the exam. States all around last year saw a drop in test participation. In fact, College Board revealed that approximately 1.85 million students took the exam for this year’s cycle, down from the 3.76 million students who took it the previous year. 

With a low turnout of test takers nationwide, including Pioneer, many expected the number of semifinalists to drop as well.

“I was very surprised we had so many [semifinalists]. It’s not more necessarily than past years, but last year, it was hard for juniors to come and take it,” said Pioneer counselor Christine Woods. “I thought Covid would’ve really cut down the number of students that we had as semifinalists.”

In order to advance as finalists, qualifiers will have to submit several pieces based on National Merit requirements which include a personal essay and SAT or ACT scores. Around half of the semifinalists may then have a chance to win a National Merit scholarship of $2,500 along with scholarships from colleges who participate in the program.

Here is the list of Pioneer students who qualified as National Merit semifinalists: 

Maryam Alavi

Haesue Baik

Katherine E. Bajcz

Jonah N. Botkin

Schuyler L. Byrn

Shankrith N. Chandru

Charles L. Herz

Clare Y. Hong

Ari B. Jacob

Arvid Jonsson

Tushaar R. Kapoor

Devin G. McDaniel

Mackenzie A. Pillote

Duncan O. Powell

Matthew A. Ruud

Juno E. Ryan

Will Sanok Dufallo

Jadon Z. Sterken

Karinne Tennenbaum

James F. Wallace

Jerry J. Wang

Rebecca Wang

Shuyi Xu