The One Percent

By Kelly Litts, Kylee McDonald and Sophia Lopez
MAY 16, 2016

St. Thomas Aquinas (STA) boasted twelve National Merit Semifinalists in the 2015-2016 school year: Matthew Cooper, Ryan Douglas, Jim Koldada, Joseph Komskis, Kelly Litts, Andres Menchaca, Mason Metzkes, Eve Moll, Juan Rincon, Dana Santangelo, Kristin Smalling and Amy Walker. These students performed in the top 99th percentile of all juniors who took the PSAT, globally, in October of 2014. Being singled out by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation affords tremendous opportunities for a wide variety of college scholarships and makes these students more desirable candidates for college admission. As they prepare to go out into the world, some STA National Merit scholars offered advice to underclassmen.

Ryan Douglas: National Merit Scholar

Ryan Douglas: NM Scholar

Ryan Douglas, valedictorian of the class of 2016, who is planning to attend University of Pennsylvania, explained that he optimized his studying for standardized tests by “doing a little each night, and starting early”. Ryan said that he began preparing in the summer of his sophomore year, and would recommend taking standardized tests “in 11th grade if possible”, and he also recommends looking into SAT subject test requirements as early as possible. He received $2,500 for his achievement as a National Merit Finalist, and said that “he thinks that it helped [him] get into a few schools, but there is no way to be sure.”

Eve Moll: National Merit Scholar

Eve Moll: NM Scholar

Eve Moll, artist extraordinaire, will be attending Vanderbilt University on a full academic scholarship. Eve said that she “studied for the PSAT by taking Mr. Aloma’s PSAT classes after school about once or twice a week. Broward Tutorial also has great tutoring services.” She added that “being a National Merit Finalist gives you a tremendous amount of leverage in the college process. You are more likely to be taken seriously as an applicant for competitive schools and programs by virtue of having this title [National Merit Finalist].” With regards to her future, Eve said that “I think being a National Merit Finalist helped me gain a position in Vanderbilt’s Honors Program and receive a full-tuition scholarship plus stipend for academics, achievement, and enrichment.” Eve realizes that she has made her parents, grandparents, and herself proud. She said that the PSAT is one of “many stepping stones to a potentially bright future.”

Jim Koldada: National Merit Scholar

Jim Koldada: NM Scholar

Jim Koldada, salutatorian of the class of 2016, who will be studying Aerospace Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) next year, was proud of his PSAT achievements. He was happy “… to list this as one of [his] honors/distinctions on all [his] applications” and noted that he was accepted into all four schools to which he applied. Jim is “still waiting for scholarships to be announced.” He studied using  “textbooks, notebooks, and other resources from the classes themselves”, but he also said that  “the websites for each of these tests can be a valuable resource for information and studying.”

Juan Rincon: National Merit Scholar

Juan Rincon: NM Scholar

Juan Rincon, mathematician at large,  will be attending University of Southern California (USC) on a full scholarship, to study Environmental Engineering, International Relations and Japanese. He used his natural talents and training from Mu Alpha Theta tests to succeed on the PSAT. He claims that his motto is “try, try again” and he practiced until he had guaranteed success. Juan also believes that success is mastered through practice and always paying attention during class.

These outstanding STA students wish all of the underclassmen success on the SAT and PSAT, and encourage more STA students to work hard to make themselves — and the school — proud of their accomplishments on these tests. Success on these standardized tests has significant impact, beyond a personal sense of accomplishment. National Merit Scholars are afforded unique scholarship and college admission opportunities.

Photos:  Courtesy of STA Yearbook