Texas Academy’s Joanne Yi selected as National Merit Scholar Semifinalist

Joanne Yi, a student at Lamar University's Texas Academy, has achieved the honor of being named a National Merit Scholarship Semifinalist.Joanne Yi Headshot

The National Merit Scholarship Program is a United States academic scholarship competition for recognition and university scholarships. The program is open to high school juniors who take the PSAT/NMSQT and meet specific criteria, such as achieving a high score on the test.

"I had the release date marked in my calendar for a year but when it came around and I found out I was selected, I was nonetheless shocked,” Yi said. “I knew it would open a gateway of possibilities for me. Since it was also a goal I had set for myself, being able to accomplish it was very rewarding."

Becoming a National Merit Semifinalist is no small feat, and Yi shed light on the rigorous selection process.

"All high school juniors in the country take the PSAT which qualifies them for National Merit Scholarships. The PSAT is a preliminary SAT on a scale of 1520 instead of the standard 1600. Over 1.5 million high school juniors take this qualifying test, and only 16,000 move on to become semifinalists, so roughly the top one percent in the country."

Furthermore, Yi highlighted her commitment to extracurricular activities and community service, which she believes strengthened her application. As the President of Texas Academy’s Model UN team and Public Relations Officer of the Society of Asian Scientists and Engineers at Lamar, she demonstrated leadership skills. Her involvement in volunteer work both locally and internationally showcased her dedication to community service.

I was selected to volunteer as a peer tutor for the SAT through College Board, through which I prepared and instructed SAT English boot camps and enabled underprivileged peers to increase their scores and achieve higher confidence in test-taking abilities,” Yi said. “I have also had the opportunity to travel to Colombia on two occasions for extended periods of time, volunteering at an organization that rescues and rehabilitates pregnant women from the streets of Medellin, Colombia, hosting three separate medical brigades to prescribe and distribute eyeglasses to low-income areas of the city, and using my proficiency in Spanish to communicate and form relationships."”

Yi also acknowledged the crucial role of mentors and educators in her academic journey.

“I greatly attribute my reading and grammar abilities to Ms. Sharon Almquist who taught composition at Veritas Classical Academy during the three years I attended the school. She taught me how to be a better writer and an overall better thinker,” Yi said.

“Also, the Texas Academy admins, Ms. Craig, Ms. Burgess, and Ms. Hymer. I truly couldn’t do it without them. Any Texas Academy student can attest that these ladies act as advisors, counselors, friends, and mentors. They do so much for us students and for the Academy as a whole, and I could not be more appreciative. And most of all, my parents, who always pushed me to be the best version of myself but also always told me when I needed to rest and never let me forget how proud they were of me.”

For aspiring National Merit Semifinalists, Yi offered valuable advice: "Take it seriously. Even though the PSAT is 'preliminary,' it can make such a big difference for college and for your future. Many colleges acknowledge National Merit Scholars with honors, awards, and substantial scholarships and stipends, so study hard, and do your best on your PSAT. 

Looking ahead, Yi is in the process of finalizing her college plans and intends to study in the field of liberal arts with aspirations of attending law school.

“Since about 8th grade, I have slowly developed my passion for law. Even more, I have solidified my desire to use my strengths in order to enable underprivileged people,” Yi said.

Finalists for the National Merit Scholarship will be announced in February 2024.