Cunitz Earns NMS Semifinalist

Isabelle Cunitz

Isabelle Cunitz

It’s been shown time and time again that great talents come from our Islands, and Makakilo’s Isabelle Cunitz is no exception.

Cunitz has proven herself to be the cream of the crop and is a semifinalist in the 2015 National Merit Scholarship program.

She heard the good news while on her way to a college admissions presentation in Waikiki, when Hawaii Technology Academy principal Leigh Fitzgerald emailed Cunitz’s mom (Wendy Marx-Cunitz) the verdict.

“I felt happy,” said the senior at Waipahu-based HTA. “It was great to walk into that admissions presentation knowing my National Merit status.”

Cunitz is among 60-plus Hawaii semifinalists and was chosen from a pool of 1.4 million juniors nationwide who took the 2013 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test, also called PSAT/NMSQT.

These semifinalists represent less than 1 percent of high school seniors and were the highest-scoring students in their states.

Having the label of National Merit Semifinalist will give Cunitz an enormous leg up during the college admissions process.

“Of the 63 students (semifinalists from Hawaii), the vast majority attend expensive private schools,” Cunitz explained. “Only six of the students attend public schools, and of those, only two, including me, attend charter schools.”

While she cannot remember specifically how she prepared for the PSAT, she made sure she had a lot of practice.

“I’ve prepared for so many standardized tests,” she noted. “For my standardized test-preparation in general, I work through test-prep books from the library. Also, I took the PSAT in ninth and 10th grades for practice.”

Her 11th grade PSAT test was the one that counted toward her National Merit Semifinalist status.

All Cunitz has to do now is wait and see if she earned National Merit Finalist status, which will be announced next February. The top 2,500 finalists will be awarded $2,500 scholarships in the spring.

But she has plenty to keep her busy, with her many extracurricular activities. She has played piano for eight years and has been a Girl Scout since first grade.

Her favorite course this year is AP psychology “because it’s such an interesting topic to explore,” and she also discovered that she enjoys learning about science and studying French.

“I love dancing Tahitian,” she added.

Cunitz also is in her fourth year of membership in George B. Carter Serteens Club of Hawaii as vice president of leadership development, which means she’s in charge of planning the organization’s two camps for the year, one of which will be in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on Hawaii island.

Serteens Club ( is dedicated to providing service opportunities, leadership training and social interaction for gifted teens.

In addition, Cunitz also is president of HTA’s chapter of National Honor Society, and is a member of Mensa Hawaii and Davidson Young Scholars program.