Helena High’s PSAT Rockstars: Congratulations to Lucy Lantz and Eric Callery!


Image by tjevans from Pixabay

Helena High School has seen many distinguished scholars come and go over the years, but not many have held the honor that seniors Lucy Lantz and Eric Callery now hold. A few weeks ago, the two received news that they scored in the top 1% of PSAT test-takers, making them National Merit Semi-Finalists.  


According to the National Merit Scholarship Program, the National Merit Scholarship “is an academic competition for recognition and scholarships.” The scholarship is given out to high school seniors who took and scored excellently on the PSAT, an optional test offered to students in their junior year. The National Merit Semi-Finalists are in line to receive a $2,500 scholarship and are chosen from approximately 50,000 students with similar scores. After the Semi-Finalists are selected, the National Merit Scholarship Finalists are chosen after Semi-Finalists fill out an application and submit either their SAT or ACT test scores.  


During class-time, Callery and Lantz were given a pass to visit Mr. Thennis, where they learned about their outstanding test scores. However, the announcement came as a bit of a surprise. “I was excited, because I did not feel great about my PSAT scores,” Lantz said. The announcement surprised Callery as well, who didn’t know that National Merit Scholarships had anything to do with PSAT scores. 


In order to prepare for the test, Callery and Lantz had somewhat different approaches. Around PSAT test-time, the counselor’s office offers special packets in order to help students study. Lantz made use of the packet but questions its scoring accuracy. “I got 100 points higher on the practice packet, so I don’t know how accurate it is,” Lantz said. On the other hand, Callery focused his attention on his upcoming SAT test. “Maybe I studied a teeny bit, but not as much as I did for the SAT,” he said. 


Besides their preparation methods for the PSAT, Callery and Lantz also had differing opinions on the difficulty of the PSAT compared to the SAT. Callery stated that he had more difficulty on the SAT, and Lantz stated that she had more difficulty with the PSAT. However, both of the tests are meant to mirror one another, with the PSAT acting as a checkpoint before the SAT. Both tests are created and administered by the College Board, a non-profit organization specializing in college preparatory tests and classes (such as the Advanced Placement program). Although the tests cover very similar material, the grading scales of the PSAT and SAT differ, with the PSAT being graded on a scale of 320-1520 and the SAT being graded on a scale of 400-1500.  


Despite their differing viewpoints over the PSAT’s content difficulty, both Lantz and Callery had advice to impart onto future test-takers. Lantz recommends focusing on your weakest area. “If it’s math, try to review the most basic algebra and pre-calc concepts…even if you miss all of the very hardest questions, you’ll still do pretty well…if English is a weaker area, just try reading a lot. It will help you notice language patterns and stuff that come up with grammar,” Lantz said. Callery’s advice is more straightforward, advising simply to “take [the PSAT]. It helps out, it’s kind of like a preview for the SAT.” 


Outside of test-taking, both Lantz and Callery plan on attending college after graduation. Lantz plans on double majoring in Economics and Math, and Callery is still deciding on his choice of major. Congratulations to Lucy and Erik on this academic achievement!