Arcadia High Students See Continued Success in National Merit Scholar Program

Arcadia High admin team delivering surprise goodies to 2020 AHS national merit semifinalists

National Merit Scholarship Semifinalist Nathan Kuo's proud mother snapped this photo of the celebratory delivery.


Over the past 25 years, Arcadia High has had an average of 20 or more National Merit Scholarship semifinalists each school year and adds 20 more Arcadia High students this year who have earned a coveted spot in the 2021 National Merit Scholarship competition. 

While it is not uncommon for public high schools to have only a handful of students or zero students who make it into the prestigious National Merit Scholarship program each year, in the past 25 years, Arcadia High has been home to over 600 National Merit Scholarship semifinalists. 

This year’s 20 Arcadia High students join less than 1% of high school seniors across the nation who now have the opportunity to continue to the next round of the competition and contend for one of roughly 7,600 scholarships that are collectively worth more than $30 million.

“Being recognized as a semifinalist in the National Merit Scholarship program is such a special honor for our students,” said Arcadia High Principal Angie Dillman. This was the motivation for Dillman and her fellow Arcadia High administration team and Arcadia High counselors to personally deliver certificates, balloons, and cupcakes to the homes of each of Arcadia High’s 20 National Merit Scholarship semifinalists in an effort to ensure these students’ accomplishments did not go unnoticed through this time of Distance Learning.


Arcadia High principal Dillman with school counselor Andrew Poon delivering national merit semifinalists treats.

Arcadia High National Merit Semifinalists received a special delivery from Principal Angie Dillman and the team.

Applying to the National Merit Scholarship program begins in a student’s junior year of high school, with Arcadia High’s current 20 semifinalists starting this journey by joining over 1.5 million juniors from nearly 21,000 high schools across the country in taking the 2019 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. Of these test-takers, approximately 16,000 of the highest-scorers from each state are awarded entry into this acclaimed academic competition.

To be eligible for a finalist spot in this program, Arcadia High’s semifinalists and Arcadia High counselors will work together to submit a detailed scholarship application, wherein they provide information about a semifinalist’s academic record, participation in school and community activities, demonstrated leadership abilities, employment, and honors and awards received. In addition, semifinalists need to have outstanding academic records throughout their high school careers, be endorsed and recommended by a high school official, and write an essay.

Of the approximately 16,000 semifinalists, 15,000 finalists will be selected. Those who make it to the finalist phase will receive notification of this designation in February 2021 and will be the final pool of scholars considered for a 2021 National Merit Scholarship.

In addition to a stellar showing each year in the National Merit Scholarship program, Arcadia High School has been ranked in the top 1 percent of best public high schools in the nation by, and its Class of 2018 saw a 100 percent graduation rate. In addition, Arcadia High has also been distinguished as a U.S. News and World Report Gold Medal School three times, an honor bestowed on less than 3 percent of the more than 19,000 schools in the country. Similarly, Newsweek named Arcadia High on its Top Public High Schools in America list. Arcadia High graduates are represented in every Ivy League school and in top universities across the country. Likewise, for two consecutive years, the Arcadia Unified School District has been named on the College Board’s Annual AP® District Honor Roll. For additional details on the National Merit Scholarship program, visit, and for information about Arcadia High School, visit

Arcadia High School National Merit Scholarship Semifinalists: (Alphabetical order by last name)

Legolas Chen, William Chen, Alex Dang, Jiacheng Hu, Dongming Hua, Jolene Huey, Nathan Kuo, Kate Larrick, Tanya Lee, Claire Liang, Margaret Lin, Alex Liu, Charisse Liu, Maxwell Montemayor, Jenny Qiu, Maggie Sun, Onassa Sun, Jonathan Wang, Melody Yang, and Henry Zeng.