2 up for National Merit honors

HHS students named semifinalists

Two Hartselle High School seniors are among the few elite students in the nation trying to become a National Merit Scholar after finding out their semifinalist standing last week.

A long application process of essays, endorsements, questionnaires, transcripts and SAT scores await Molly Buffington and Robin Tumlinson.

“After scoring high enough on the PSAT, semifinalists have to fill out a long application and score at least a 1960 on the SAT,” Buffington said. “It’s a lot of work that kind of weeds out the people who aren’t willing to put in the effort, but obviously the potential reward is worth it.”

Each girl had a different reaction to the big news. Tumlinson had a hard time believing she had made it.

“I was really excited to hear I was a semifinalist, but I wouldn’t look too far into it at first because I didn’t want to jinx anything and get my hopes too high,” Tumlinson said. “I knew being a National Merit semifinalist was a big deal, but I didn’t want to get myself

all excited about the scholarship opportunities in case they don’t work out. I have since started learning and hearing more about it so I can do what I can to become a finalist.”

Buffington had already been looking into National Merit Scholar qualifications for a while.

“When I found out I was a semifinalist, I had already been on forums trying to get as much information as I could about the qualifications for about five days,” Buffington said. “I wanted to be prepared for the next step and know what my options might be for college. When I visited The University of Alabama last summer, I asked for information about their opportunities for National Merit Scholars just in case.”

Both girls had taken the PSAT, which tests critical reading, writing and math skills, previously in 10th grade. Tumlinson was chosen by counselors to attend special study sessions to raise her score to National Merit Scholar standards a few weeks before she re-took the test in 11th grade.

“Those study sessions really helped me have a goal score in mind,” Tumlinson said. “It gave me a lot more insight into how the tested were scored and what I needed to do.”

Tumlinson and Buffington both said they felt reading helped them more than anything.

“Reading from English classes throughout school and on my own seemed to help the most,” Buffington said. “There were lots of vocabulary words that I could recognize from books.”

Buffington is considering attending The University of Alabama after graduation.

“At UA I met with the Dean of the Honors College, and I really loved it there,” Buffington said. “I talked with them about pursuing a history degree, and they brought up the idea of possibly being able to double-major if I get the scholarships to cover it. Alabama also offers a five-year masters program and study abroad opportunities to National Merit Scholars sometimes, so that would be great.”

Tumlinson has been looking into both the University of Alabama in Birmingham and Auburn University.

“I have looked at UAB and Auburn and what they might offer National Merit Scholars,” Tumlinson said. “I’m leaning toward Auburn because they seem to offer the best experience in biomedical or chemical engineering, which is what I’m considering. I also saw that sometimes they give National Merit Scholars $2,000-$3,000 for research or study abroad programs.”

Buffington moved to Hartselle this past June from Burbank, Calif. She said there were only a few academic differences she had noticed in the two schools.

“Both schools have different AP courses, so I was able to take some here that I wouldn’t have gotten to take before, but there are also some that my old school offered that Hartselle doesn’t,” Buffington said. “The graduation requirements are also a bit different, so I’m taking different credits than I had expected to take my senior year. I’m in AP Government and Economics right now as well as AP World History, which I had really wanted to take.”

Tumlinson and Buffington should find out in February if they qualify as National Merit Finalists.

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