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EHS Seniors Earn National Merit Semifinalist Recognition

Two Eastchester High School seniors have been named Semifinalists in the 2023  National Merit Scholarship program.

Antonio Ramos and Zhuoyi Zou are among approximately 16,000 students chosen from 1.6 million who took last year’s PSAT, the qualifying test for the scholarships. These academically talented high school seniors have an opportunity to continue in the competition for some 7,500 National Merit Scholarships worth more than $28 million that will be offered next spring.

Neither Zou nor Ramos took the test with the scholarship competition in mind. But both said they had approached the exams with a determination to do their best. Ramos submitted his SAT score in lieu of taking the PSAT. 

“I was aware [of the National Merit Scholarship Program], I had done a few practice tests, and I had SAT experience. So I was confident that I was probably going to get a decently high score,” said Zou.

For his part, Ramos said, “I just went in there with the mindset that I was going to score as high as I possibly could, largely for college purposes, but also just to prove to myself that I could. That’s my mentality with most tests.”

The students have different areas of interest—Ramos plans to focus his future studies on psychology while Zou cites robotics as a true passion. But each of them credited Eastchester High School and its faculty with fostering their love of academics. 

“Last year, I took Mr. Gruber’s Regents physics class, and he was such an energetic presence, I felt like I was able to truly connect with a teacher for the first time,” said Ramos. “It really enlightened me about ways that you can approach school and honestly, without him, I don’t think I’d be here right now.”

Zou said, “For me, that teacher was Ms. Dineen in AP Chemistry. That was the first science class I started to struggle in, but Ms. Dineen managed to keep it really exciting. I think it worked to my strengths because I like an exciting environment but I also tend to perform well under pressure.”

Ramos and Zou now find themselves in the running for a National Merit Scholarship and will be asked to submit a detailed scholarship application, along with an essay and a recommendation from a high school official.

National Merit Scholar Finalists will be announced sometime in February and the list of scholarship winners will be announced in four nationwide news releases between April and July. 

Although it would be an honor to be considered for a prize by the scholarship committee, Ramos said, he had already benefitted from the competition after his standardized test scores attracted the interest of several top-tier colleges .

 “What really stood out for me was the letters I got from colleges after those scores were sent out; it was interesting comparing them to the letters that came before,” he said. “That was the moment I realized that this really matters.”