National Merit Semifinalist offers PSAT advice

Sophomores, juniors will take assessment on Oct. 10


Adrian Edmonds

Senior Blake Lowe checks out results during his A period independent study chemistry class on Oct. 8.

Madi Wirth, Reporter

“I am glad it’s over,” senior Blake Lowe said about his experience taking standardized tests. But his time, preparation and stress have paid off, according to his results.

Lowe qualified as a Semifinalist for a National Merit Scholarship. To meet the standards for this prestigious honor, one must score in the top 1 percent of PSAT takers as a high school junior. About 1.6 million students took the test and Lowe was one of 16,000 to qualify.

On Oct. 10, all Cathedral sophomores and juniors will take the PSAT. For the sophomores, it’s practice; for juniors, it’s the National Merit qualifying exam.

The next steps in becoming a Finalist include his SAT scores and an essay due later this month. Of the 16,000 Semifinalist applicants, 15,000 will become Finalists. Counselor Mrs. Anne Katz wrote in an email, “Typically, all Cathedral students designated as Semifinalists move onto Finalist status.”

Lowe is joined by five fellow Semifinalist classmates, Brendan Hurley, Anna Pohl, Jacob Schneider, Avaleen Sweeney and McKenna Wylam. Finalist decisions will be mailed in February.

Lowe said, “Academically, this is my greatest achievement. And personally, this is the only national award I’ve ever received.”
After being satisfied with his scores, he took all college applicant tests twice, the PSAT, the ACT and the SAT, which includes the perfect score on his junior PSAT that landed him as a Semifinalist.

And if you were smart like Lowe, you might take his advice in how to ace your standardized testing. He said to use your first PSAT during sophomore year as an “opportunity to get familiar with the type of questions.” After getting comfortable with the format, master practice tests and problems. He also used an SAT prep book and attended a prep course on campus. When test day comes around, be sure to get a good sleep and a good breakfast.

Lowe said he struggled most with being “paranoid (about) running out of time.” His advice includes doing about a quarter of questions and checking the clock to see if you need to sped up or have time to slow down based off your pace.

His biggest piece of advice is motivation. Lowe said, “Be confident in your abilities. You shouldn’t be stressed out.”

Lowe’s class schedule has helped in preparing him for college. He takes four independent study classes that include math, chemistry, physics and computer science. He will graduate with his estimate of about “six or seven AP scores,” he said. Besides his dedicated studies, Lowe plays tennis and participates in theater, choir and the Robotics Club.

After taking his senior year of standardized testing off, he said it was best to focus on college applications. Lowe plans to study materials engineering. He has applied to Stanford and Purdue, and the universities of Illinois, Michigan and Cincinnati. He sees his top choice, MIT, as a reach, but hey, Blake, be confident in your abilities.