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Chatting with a National Merit Finalist from Lovejoy High School

High school senior, Austin Gallaway, was recently informed he was Lovejoy ISD’s first National Merit Finalist. Knowing he will be the first of many, the Lovejoy Journal recently sat down with Austin and his parents, Scott and Laura Gallaway, to discuss the National Merit process.  We wanted to know what they learned from the process and what the benefits were of becoming a National Merit Finalist.

And, just in case you had a few of the same questions, check out the interview for yourself:

LJ: Austin, what did you think when you were told you were a National Merit Finalist?

Austin: Actually, back in the spring of 2010, I was informed I was a National Merit Qualifier. I earned this honor along with 5 of my classmates: Chase Anderson, Zachary Bogucki, Helen Hansen, Brandon Sayeed, and Anjali Sethi.  In September of 2010, I was informed that I was a semi-finalist.  The other qualified students were all recognized as Commended Scholars.  It was not until early February that I was told I had been named a finalist.  When the principal, Mr. Goodrich, told me I was a finalist, I was very happy to know I would have the opportunity to attend college on a nice scholarship.

LJ: How did you become a National Merit Finalist?

Austin: Basically, it comes down to the score I made on the PSAT during my junior year as well as having an SAT score and coursework to back it up.

LJ: So, Mom and Dad, what have you learned?

Laura: We learned that the score a junior achieves on the PSAT can really matter.  Like all Lovejoy students, Austin took the PSAT as a freshman and sophomore, and he did well.  We thought this was just good practice for the SAT test he would take as part of his college admission process.  But it was more than that. As a Commended Scholar, Semi-finalist, or Finalist, there are significant scholarship opportunities available.

LJ: So, how significant of a scholarship?

Scott: There are three types of National Merit Scholarships:

  • National Merit® $2500 Scholarships,
  • Corporate-sponsored scholarships,
  • and College-sponsored scholarships.

The college sponsored scholarships can be substantial, depending on the school you choose. There are a few schools inside Texas such as UTD, Texas Tech, and University of Houston, that are close to a full ride.  The University of Oklahoma is a big player in recruiting National Merit Finalist as well.

LJ: What advice would you give other parents?

Scott: Pay attention to their progress on the PSAT.  If their sophomore score is around 190, they are in range to do well enough as a junior to be National Merit Qualified.  If they can score above 215 their junior year on the PSAT, they have a good chance to be a National Merit semi-finalist and finalist.

Laura: I would also recommend, if your child’s sophomore score is 190 or above, that you consider investing in a prep course.  There is only one opportunity to take the PSAT as a junior, so it is important that they are well prepared on test day.

LJ: Anything else to add?

Laura: The counseling staff at LJHS–Jeannie Walls, Amanda Breeden and Stacey Ruff–were very helpful during the application process.  Their efforts certainly helped us succeed.

LJ: So finally, Austin, where will you be attending school?

Austin: It came down between the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University.  Both offered great scholarships and had good engineering schools. In the end, I choose OSU, and plan to study Mechanical Engineering.

Interested in learning more about how you can prepare for the PSATs and put yourself in the same National Merit Finalist shoes as Austin Gallaway? Visit Tutoring 101’s website for PSAT prep information and for information on different prep courses we have available.


(The National Merit Scholarship Program is an academic competition for recognition and scholarship that began in 1955. For more information, visit: http://www.nationalmerit.org)