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Centennial's Andrew Li is a National Merit Scholarship Finalist

 Andrew Li leans against a wooden rail on a bridge Each year, about 1.5 million high school students enter the National Merit Scholarship Program. High School students who meet published requirements enter by taking the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test, usually as juniors.

Of the 1.5 million entrants, about 50,000 with the highest PSAT/NMSQT Selection Index scores qualify for recognition in the National Merit Scholarship Program as either Commended Students or Semifinalists.

From the pool of just 16,000 Semifinalists, Centennial High School Senior Andrew Li was selected as a National Merit Scholarship Finalist.

From that Finalist group, scholars are selected based on their abilities, skills, and accomplishments, with his or her academic record, information about the school's curriculum and grading system, PSAT/NMSQT Selection Index score, the high school official's written recommendation, information about the student's activities and leadership, and the Finalist's own essay taken into consideration.

“It'd be an honor to be able to be recognized as a National Merit Scholar,” Andrew said. “Obviously, it's humbling to know that you're in consideration for the award alongside a few thousand of the most dedicated, involved, and passionate kids across the country.

There are so many that are deserving of the award who are all doing amazing things within their own cities and communities.”

Through hard work and diligence, Andrew was able to set himself apart from the crowded National Merit Scholarship applicant pool. 

“For the most part, I think it comes down to just being willing to put in the hard work to achieve the things that you're passionate about, whether that be scoring a high enough qualifying score on the PSAT/NMSQT or taking the time to truly be involved in the clubs and activities that you participate in,” he said. “Having a goal that I was striving towards and putting in the time to practice or work for that goal was critical, not only for being named a National Merit Finalist, but for my future plans as well.”

At Centennial, Andrew has excelled academically and in Speech/Debate, DECA and FBLA. But success has not come without challenges.

“Without a doubt, learning to not be deterred by failure is ultimately the thing that I'm most proud of over my past four years at Centennial,” he said. “I never would have been able to achieve any of my tangible accomplishments -- winning second at the FBLA National Leadership Conference in 2019, or making it out of the preliminary rounds at the National Speech and Debate Tournament with my partner, Caelen Burand -- without having to have overcome numerous obstacles and setbacks along the way. 

“In speech and debate, for example, it's almost a given that some rounds, some tournaments, or some years -- especially your first few -- aren't going to go your way. Learning from those moments and being able to take them in stride truly paid off for me. As president of our speech and debate team and of Centennial's FBLA chapter, that's something I'm hoping to be able to teach our next few years of kids as well.

Although he is still waiting to hear back from several schools he applied to, Andrew plans to attend the prestigious Ivy League institution Yale and study computer science and economics.

“I've always been interested in how computers and technology are integrated throughout our entire society, and I'd love to be able to connect that towards making a tangible impact on our future,” he said.

Centennial Principal Dave Craddock said Andrew represents the best of what the school offers. 

“Andrew embodies the excellence that we strive for in all at Centennial,” Principal Craddock said. “He is a well-rounded scholar who not only excels in the classroom, but in multiple extra-curricular activities and service to his community.

“It comes as no surprise to us that he is a National Merit Scholarship Finalist, as his academic prowess speaks for itself. And if you think this is impressive, his character is second to none. He is truly an outstanding young man and we are extremely proud of him for this honor.”