Upper Arlington High School's National Merit semifinalists are making college plans and hoping for scholarships as they continue to compete for National Merit Scholarship awards.
Twelve UAHS seniors have been named National Merit semifinalists this year: Niki Ahmadi, Nicholas Donadio, Ben Kompa, Yechaowei Li, Filip Lillard, Ben McBride, Brandon Moore, Nick Sievert, Stuart Silver, Lauren Stechschulte, Sam Thompson and Grace Tucker.
The students achieved semifinalist status in the National Merit Scholarship Program by earning stellar scores on the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Qualifying Test, taken last year when they were juniors.
College counselor Mark Davis said the district prepares students for the test by teaching critical reasoning and important mathematical skills from kindergarten on.
"It is not just a high school focus, but a district focus to see that our students receive the best education possible without teaching to the test, but focusing on lifelong learning skills that result in a high school population performing well on all high-stakes tests," he said.
He said parents are encouraged to involve their children in test preparation programs and online resources, many of which are free, or in organizational programs to prepare for the test.
The district provided a preparation course at the high school on Oct. 14 through the CollegeSmiths program. Freshmen and sophomores were scheduled to take preliminary tests while juniors took the PSAT test on Oct. 17.
"Practicing questions and understanding how to take the PSAT is key to improving scores," Davis said. "The focus really needs to be on grades nine through 11 and making sure that students are challenging themselves at the most appropriate higher-level courses, such as Honors, Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate as soon as the student possibly can."
He said students "must step up to the plate" and take the most competitive course load possible to be competitive in college placements.
Davis said the most elite colleges in the country often accept fewer than 7 percent of 30,000-plus applicants.
"No matter what colleges these seniors ultimately attend, they will be some of the most successful adults upon graduation," he said.
The semifinalists are involved in a myriad of activities at the high school and most have decided on their top college choices.
Thompson said he is involved in Upper Arlington Young Life and is the varsity baseball captain. He is considering attending Ohio State University, Northwestern or Miami of Ohio.
Tucker is a violist in the high school symphony orchestra and rows on the Upper Arlington Crew team. She also attends the Regan-Rankin Academy of Irish Dance and is involved in various community service activities. She wants to major in environmental studies, with a minor in history.
McBride said he is "strongly considering" OSU but his possible career choices are "very dissimilar."
"I have thought about pursuing a career based in writing, a career in chemical engineering or one in business," he said. "I haven't been able to narrow it down."
He is a member of the speech and debate team and the Spirit Club.
Sievert is a water polo goalie and on the swim team. He wants to major in engineering and is looking at University of Michigan and Princeton, among others.
Stechschulte said she is interested in majoring in math, computer science, chemistry or German and her top college choices are Cornell, Brown, Notre Dame or the University of Richmond. She plays tennis and is a member of the mock trial team. She also volunteers with her church's elementary school ministry.
Donadio's college choices are Yale, Duke, Vanderbilt and Case Western Reserve. His activities include volunteer research work at OSU, varsity football, track and performing with the symphony orchestra.
"I am interested in potentially majoring in biology, with a career as a research scientist," he said.
Lillard wants to major in electrical engineering and his top college choices are Cornell University and MIT. He said he is currently trying to start the first robotics team at the high school.
"Having been on a team in Ithaca, I am looking for publicity, funding and mentors for the team, as it takes a large effort to run a team, even for a year," he said.
Several UAHS students were named National Commended Scholars. They are: seniors Nikiar Ahmadi, Roberta Blaho, Molly Bean, Paul Carvalho, Michael Coyle, Bipul Gnyawali, Nicolette Green, Matias Grotewold, Ellen Herd, Catherine Civanovich, Samuel Klamar, May Kodama, Stuart Little, Mackenzie Martin, Tyler Metcalf, Olivia Miltner, Thomas Paulson, Maria Rizzoni, Carissa Roberts, Kelly Spangler, Benjamin Spencer, David Streicher and Alexander Wunderlich.