How CAC’s National Merit Finalists balance school and life

The road to becoming a National Merit Finalist is not easy. To be considered for the spot, students must score in the top 1% of their state on the PSAT or SAT. This year, seniors Riley Bryant, Yasmine Hekmatpour and Sarah Reaves have been named National Merit Finalists. Each student has worked extremely hard to manage their athletics, social lives and academic careers.

Riley’a biggest tip regarding academics is to spread your work out over a period of time, rather than doing it all in one night. She makes it a habit to identify priorities throughout her week, and takes time to focus on her mental health. She also emphasized the importance of actively listening during class in order to minimize study time at home.

“An easy way to make sure that you’re not spending a lot of time on studying is actually paying attention in class,” she said. “This ensures that you’re not relearning lots of material that would’ve stuck with you if you had just listened in class. This means less studying time and more time to do things for yourself. It’s very difficult to do this on days where you just want to go home, and that’s okay, but it really isn’t that bad on most days.”

According to Sarah Reaves, organization and time management play a major role in academic success. She puts all deadlines, tasks, events and reminders into a spreadsheet so that she can keep track of her responsibilities. She’s also disciplined in limiting potential distractions to keep her focused.

“I try to waste as little time as possible on social media, and I try to make the most of any opportunity to get something done,” Sarah said said.

Yasmine explained that she has taught herself quick study methods so that she does not have to spend hours studying each night. She also said that she spends most of her free time studying, so a social life seems unattainable, but she has been blessed to make great friends at school she is able to spend time with.

“It is really important [to me] that I make close friends inside school and enjoy my eight hours a day with them,” Yasmine said.

The three finalists leave CAC students with this advice: Make priorities and goals and stick to them. It is hard to accomplish this level of achievement, but it is extremely worth it. The pros definitely outweigh any of the cons.