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Q&A with Ryan Douglas, National Merit Semifinalist

Q&A with Ryan Douglas, National Merit Semifinalist
Posted on 10/08/2021
Ryan Douglas, a senior at Arlington High School, has been selected as a semifinalist for the 2022 National Merit Scholarship Program!

He and fellow classmate Joyce Ma 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 Douglas is among the highest-scoring students in the state of Tennessee!

We sat down with Ryan to ask him about this recognition and learn more about his time as an AHS student.

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

It opens up more opportunities than I had previously considered. Before I heard about the National Merit program, I was interested mainly in California schools because that’s where I’m from mostly. California schools don’t do much with National Merit, so I really started looking at other places I would have never considered. I’m really grateful for that.

What are your post-AHS plans?

I’m really interested in attending the University of Alabama for computer science engineering. They really strive to recruit as many National Merits as they can, and from what I’ve been able to tell, they have the best scholarship package for National Merits in the country.

I recently toured the entire campus. It’s a big campus, but everything is super compact and logically laid out. Since I’m a semifinalist, I had the opportunity to meet with Alabama’s president. I didn’t realize it was going to be a one-on-one meeting, so I felt really unprepared when I walked in and there were three secretaries. I was like, ‘Oh, where am I?’ The president happens to be a nuclear engineer, and so is my dad. It was great getting to talk to him because I really liked his outlook on life and education and what’s most important in life.

What got you interested in computer science engineering?

I’ve always been interested in computers, but I never had the opportunity to fully immerse myself into it. I didn’t have a coding class at my California school, so when I moved here my sophomore year, coding immediately took my interest. I’m now in Coding II, and it’s really allowed me to see what I like, what I don’t like, and it’s something I’ve really enjoyed.

How did moving from state-to-state impact you as a student and person?

Well, my dad is military so we moved around a lot. It seems to be a pattern where we lived in California, moved to another state and then moved back to Cali. I’ve lived in California, Virginia, Nebraska and now Tennessee. It’s hard to get adjusted sometimes because they’re such vastly different places, but it's given me a lot of perspective on what’s important and what contributes to creating a person and their values. I’m very appreciative of it.

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

I joined the Knowledge Bowl team when I moved here, and I’m actually on the Channel 3 team this year. I’m really nervous, but I’m looking forward to it. I’m also trying to get the SkillsUSA club up and running. The club is mainly focused on coding and technology and involvement in computer science. There are coding and robotic competitions that we can get involved with too. Another aspect of it is Esports and gaming. Esports is growing, and it’s nice to have the opportunity to have fun while also feeling like you’re communicating with people and growing connections. It helps me improve my social skills and get involved.

What will you miss most about high school?

I think I’ll miss the safety net of interacting with the same people over and over again. It’s been pretty easy to get to know a lot of people in a short amount of time, so I’ll miss that when I go to a larger university like Alabama. Of course, I’ll miss the friends I’ve made and the fun things I’ve been a part of like Knowledge Bowl and SkillsUSA.

Every single year I’ve been here has been radically different and my experience with it has been radically different. My first year here, my sophomore year, was hard to get acclimated to everything, and then we left for the longest spring break ever because of COVID. Then my junior year was the hybrid year, so I was only on campus two days a week. Now it’s my senior year, and everything is going great because we’re finally getting back to normal. My experience here has been nothing I could have ever imagined, but I’m grateful for the opportunities I’ve had and the people I’ve met.

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.