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Amazing ACT

Five students received the coveted perfect 36 test score

Bridget Baker, Staff Writer

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Since its creation in 1959, the ACT has grown immensely. Prep classes are everywhere, and high school students are always stressing about their scores. For most, a 36 seems unachievable–with activities and the events of daily life, it doesn’t seem like there would be time to study that much. But for a rare few, achieving a perfect score doesn’t have to come above everything else.

Junior Emma Ulrich scored a 36 and a full life of friends, art and music.

“I guess every day you just kinda have to pick what you’re gonna prioritize and sometimes it’s kinda like ‘Oops, didn’t get that done’ but you just kinda have to go on with it,” she said with a laugh.

Like any ordinary teenager, she procrastinates from time to time, and even has trouble balancing her time. And she also comes from an ordinary background.

“When I got a 35 the first time, and I told my parents that, my dad was like, ‘out of what’,” she said, “so like they didn’t really know but it was fun, they were excited,” Ulrich said.

Senior Vishnu Menon, another perfect scorer, is always busy with something, like playing the violin in orchestra or volunteering at Lakeside hospital. How does he balance it all?

“I mainly just focus on doing things as quickly and efficiently as possible. However, this still means that I’m staying up until four in the morning some nights,” Menon said.

Late-night and weekend study sessions are key to Menon’s success. Hard work is crucial in managing the pressure students face.

Senior Daniel Fu had extraordinary pressure on the ACT, since his older brother got a 36 as well. But that just made it better when he finally got a 36 after two 35s in a row.

“I found out in Maestra’s Spanish Class after my brother sent me a picture of the score report and was very surprised–I slumped down in my seat and was in awe for a couple of seconds. It was also very liberating and exciting to see it,” Fu said.

But he doesn’t just care about his own score. Fu and two others, including Menon and senior Jason Selvaraj, started an organization to help others study for the ACT as well as other common tests like the SAT and AP/IB exams. After being underwhelmed by John Baylor, they wanted to share what they knew from experience and create an organization with a more current understanding of students.

“Why learn from a person who doesn’t know the struggles and path to get a good score, when you can learn from students, like us, that have learned how to get better at the ACT? We realized that we had a unique opportunity to help students who wanted better scores whether it be for scholarships or their dream college,” Fu said.

Even with the extraordinary academic success Fu and Menon have achieved, they’re not always school-oriented. Both of them, like Ulrich, enjoy playing music in their spare time, or as Fu describes it, “messing around with my saxophone.” But it’s bigger than a hobby.

“Musicians really know how to take failure and criticism and learn from it, which is a huge component of learning and general intelligence,” Fu said.

Ulrich practices the flute often to relieve stress, but she said that music “really teaches you that discipline to be successful in school as well.”

Menon, a violinist, offers a more in-depth explanation.

“It takes a lot of critical thinking to identify what you’re doing right and wrong during practice and to implement the corresponding solutions effectively,” Menon said. “The same is true in general intelligence. Both require this type of methodical approach to problem solving. At the same time, there are also components of creativity in both – out-of-the-box thinking.”

Juniors Khoa Nguyen and Charlie Peng round out Millard North’s group of perfect ACT scorers. With determination, they both achieved a 36 on their very first time taking the test.

Peng works hard but also enjoys things you’d expect from an ordinary student, like participating in orchestra, playing video games and spending time with friends. Nguyen is not involved in music programs, but he certainly still keeps busy, belonging to 5 activities/clubs here at school, including chess club and robotics.

“I attempt to create a schedule of things I need to do, but more or less my life is chaos,” Khoa said.

For all of these students, life is busy and imperfect. They may have gotten a perfect score on the ACT, but they’re still normal teenagers just trying to make it through high school like the rest of us.


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Amazing ACT