By David Fong
TROY — With graduation looming, Troy High School senior Mariana Huerta has yet to decide where she will matriculate next fall.
Not that it much matters, as a National Merit Finalist, Huerta will essentially have her pick of colleges from which to choose.
“I’m still deciding on a school,” Huerta said. “I’ve received a lot of offers. There are a lot of good places I could go. It’s still a big decision to make and I want to evaluate all the factors. I’m grateful for all of the good opportunities I have. I want to study chemical engineering and I think I have it narrowed down to either Ohio State or Georgia Tech.”
Should either one of those two schools end up with Huerta on campus next fall, it will be getting one of the top students in the nation.
To become a National Merit Finalist, Huerta first had to take the PSAT test, which measured critical reading ability, mathematics problem solving ability and writing ability, as opposed to pre-existing knowledge.
Approximately 1.5 million students at 22,000 high schools nationwide took that same test, and the top-scoring students (0.5 percent of students who took the test) from each state were named National Merit Semifinalists.
Once she was named a National Merit Semifinalist, Huerta had to send in a scholarship application, including a scholastic resume including academic history, extracurricular activities and awards. She also had to take the SAT test.
From that group of top echelon students, less than 1 percent were selected as finalists, according to statistics released by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation.
“You are talking about the best of the best,” Troy High School Principal William Overla said. “You are taking less than 1 percent of the students from across the nation as semifinalists, then you are taking less than 1 percent of that group as finalists. Mariana deserves to be right in with that group. She’s a top-notch kid.”
Since both the PSAT and SAT tests measure problem solving and critical thinking ability as opposed to what students already know, Huerta said she just tried to relax while taking the tests.
“I just tried to relax and take my time,” she said. “I didn’t do any prep courses for the test; I just took a practice test so I would know what it was like.”
Huerta said her family has always put a premium on hard work in the classroom and getting the best education possible.
“My family definitely takes education very seriously,” she said. “I’ve put a lot of effort into school.”
Contact David Fong at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @thefong