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Orchestra's National Merit Semifinalists

Early this Fall, two of our own orchestra members placed in the top 1% of all students who took the PSAT, also known as the NMSQT. Here, we've done a short interview with both of our semifinalists to get to know a little more about them.

For those of you who are wondering what the PSAT/NMSQT is, it's a test structured very similarly to the SAT that determines students' eligibility for National Merit scholarships. Each year, millions of students take the test to try to place upon the top test takers in the country. This year, two students from our orchestras have managed to do so. We've done a brief interview with both of them, which you'll see next.

The Interviews


Braden Wong

There might be some people who don’t know you so well, so tell us a fun fact about yourself!

I actually never planned on running for ASB in high school--I had lost 4 out of 5 elections in middle school and really was quite an introverted dude! My decision to run for ASB was made in literally 3 seconds, debating with myself as all the freshmen funneled out of the freshman assembly. One decision led to thousands of others, and those 3 seconds would end up defining the next four years of my life!


As a National Merit Scholarship Qualifier, one of the top scores in our entire country belongs to you. What things went into the process of preparing for this test?

I had taken the SAT in 8th grade and the ACT in 11th grade, so I was lucky to have a early foundation for the test. I did a lot of free practice problems from Khan Academy for the SAT and released exams for the ACT (I definitely preferred the SAT more). Getting sufficient sleep always helps!


Academics are obviously a big part of your high school life, but you’re also involved in other extracurriculars, one of them being orchestra. How does orchestra fit into your life, and what has it taught you?

It’s truly amazing to be a part of a group which emphasizes specialization and parts coming together to form a whole. Playing a musical instrument is one of the few pleasures that allows me to take a break from academic studies while also reinforcing them at the same time.



David Zhu

There might be some people who don’t know you so well, so tell us a fun fact about yourself!

I LOVE roller coaster design and engineering. You can talk to me about any ride at any theme park around the world, and I can nerd out for hours to you about it… and if I don’t know about it, I would surely enjoy hearing you nerd out about it. Whether it is talking about the thrill or the innovation that is behind these designs, I’d be able to bore you out.


As a National Merit Scholarship Qualifier, one of the top scores in our entire country belongs to you. What things went into the process of preparing for this test?

I think I’ve had a strong foundation in taking standardized tests, taking and passing many AP and SAT subject tests before I had the opportunity to take the NMSQT. In terms of advice, I would surely recommend familiarizing yourself with the speed required to comfortably go through the test. The faster you work through the test, the more time you have to sleep between sections!!


Academics are obviously a big part of your high school life, but you’re also involved in other extracurriculars, one of them being orchestra. How does orchestra fit into your life, and what has it taught you?

Orchestra gives me an opportunity to find peace in my life. Sometimes I am swamped by all the things that plague Arcadia High Schoolers, like tests and grades. Yet, orchestra manages to distract me from life. It is an environment where I am able to get to know those around me, and work together to make something happen. I’ve involved myself with orchestra not just at school, but also outside of school. Through music, I’m able to find and sort out my emotions, and I simply cannot thrive like I can without orchestra.


We'd like to give a big thank you to Braden and David for their time and for being so willing to let us interview them! Stay tuned for more posts in the future about the Arcadia Orchestras and our students!

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