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Q&A with Joyce Ma, National Merit Semifinalist

Q&A with Joyce Ma, National Merit Semifinalist
Posted on 10/06/2021
Joyce Ma, a senior at Arlington High School, has been selected as a semifinalist for the 2022 National Merit Scholarship Program!

She and fellow classmate Ryan Douglas are two of 16,000 students nationwide to be named a semifinalist and will now compete to become finalists.

More than 1.5 million juniors representing 21,000 high schools across the country entered the 2022 National Merit Program by taking the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test last year, and Ma is among the highest-scoring students in the state of Tennessee!

We sat down with Joyce to ask her about this recognition and learn more about her time as an AHS student.

What does it mean to you being named a National Merit Semifinalist?

It reinforces the idea that I am capable of achieving anything. Doing all of those practice tests on nights and weekends, sometimes three and four hours at a time, can be discouraging at times, and it felt like it was never going to end. So once I was told that I was at minimum a semifinalist, it said to me that the effort was actually worth it and that I’m capable of things that I put my mind to.

Both of my brothers were National Merit scholars in high school, so I guess it’s become a family tradition. I wanted to make them proud.

What are your post-AHS plans?

I’m very interested in mechanical engineering right now. I’m waiting to see what type of scholarships I can get, but I’m leaning towards the University of Alabama or University of Texas at Dallas.

What got you interested in mechanical engineering?

I first got exposed to robotics while at Arlington Middle in STEM class and by joining the robotics club. We used Lego Mindstorms robotics to do certain tasks like moving blocks and traveling down certain paths. The robotics club was a lot of fun too because we went to different competitions. I just always thought it was so cool to program a robot and make it do whatever you wanted. It amazes me how factories and other manufacturers use robots to enhance their products and make the process easier, so I'm excited to learn more about it even more in college.

In high school, I’ve been able to take a lot of sciences and math and even computer science, so I’ve been able to build off what I learned in middle school.

What clubs and organizations have you joined while at AHS and how has your involvement helped you as a student?

I’m a member of the swim team, National Beta Club (treasurer), National Honor Society, National English Honor Society, Mu Alpha Theta (vice president) and the Technology Student Association. I also play the violin in the Memphis Youth Symphony outside of school.

I’m not a very outgoing person, so I felt by doing these clubs I can get more used to being around a lot of people and improve my communication and socializing skills. Of course, the swim team keeps me fit and in shape. All of these clubs have prepared me with leadership skills and for upcoming interviews for colleges and scholarships too. It forces me to be more open and take more responsibility.

What will you miss most about high school?

Well, I guess I will miss what you get by living with your parents…you know, laundry and meals and that sort of thing. But I will really miss my friends because I already know they’re not looking at the same schools I am. They plan to stay around the Tennessee area, so I’ll have to be more open and make new friends now.

About the National Merit Scholarship Program:

To become a finalist, eligible seniors must write an essay, submit SAT or ACT scores and receive a high school official's recommendation for review. The National Merit Scholarship Corp. estimates about 15,000 of the 16,000 semifinalists will advance to the finalist level. Finalists will be notified in February 2022.