ACT High Score | Southern Education Desk
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A fifteen-year-old high school student from Louisiana has achieved a 36, the highest possible score on the ACT college entry exam.
It’s a rare achievement and she credits relentless study for her success
Educators say the top score is a strong indicator of success at the university level, but caution that success is not guaranteed.
|Ariel Hippen makes the most of science class.|
At Neville High School students are taking in a chemistry lesson, and fifteen-year-old Ariel Hippen jots down notes. But Ariel is no ordinary student – she earned an extremely rare high score on the college admission test. She says that part of the secret to achieving a high score is to take the test early on in high school.
“I think that it’s a great idea for people, even if they’re not juniors and seniors to take the ACT – just figure out where they are and how much they need to improve, based on their college dreams. And so, last year, when I was a freshman in high school, my parents and I decided that I should take it just to assess where I am educationally. And I got a 34 then, and it made me realize not only would a perfect score be possible, potentially going to college early would be possible as well.”
How rare is a 36 on the ACT scale?
ACT media relations officer, Nancy Owen, says nation wide more than 1.6 million students from 2011 graduating class took the ACT; 704 scored a 36. Last year in the South, 15 Alabama graduates received a 36; there were 14 in Georgia, seven in Louisiana and four in Mississippi.
Ariel Hippen came to Neville High in 2011 from a Colorado charter school. Neville guidance councilor, Chris Waters, says Ariel’s academic trajectory was well in motion before coming to Louisiana.
“Ariel didn’t take our ACT prep classes, most likely because her schedule is full of the classes that she needs to graduate. I mean you have to understand that the student is trying to graduate early, so she can’t afford to have basket-weaving – not to compare ACT-prep with basket-weaving (laughs), but there are certain electives that can be taken that are not as rigorous as core classes. And while she’s here, she’s taking those core classes. So any pre-work had to be done on the side. So we can’t take credit for her awesome ACT – she did show up with a 34 before we even touched her. But I will say she got her 36 while she was here.”
ACT spokesperson, Nancy Owen, says there are commonalities among students who score a 36 on the test.
“One of the recurring themes is that the students often thank their parents for encouraging them to work hard in school. They will often thank the schools and their teachers for being great at what they do.”
Ariel describes having a good relationship with both her parents and her teachers, but she says the success on the ACT was her own doing.
“I studied from all the ACT-prep books I could get my hands on, did a lot of practice tests, and went in and did well on the test.”
The University of Louisiana at Monroe’s department head of curriculum and instruction in the college of education, Dorothy Schween, says a top ACT score does not guarantee academic success in university.
“It is not the end-all-be-all, having advised students over the years I have found that there’s a great deal more than just academic potential that’s involved in success at the university level. An ACT of 36 is an incredible score, obviously, and a very exciting potential indicator. But the student is going to be leaving that protected environment where parents are guiding a lot of the decision-making.”
Nevertheless, Ariel Hippen is still riding the wave of nailing the rarest of ACT scores.
“It was hard to believe. I thought I was hallucinating because I had checked it very early in the morning. And so I kind of double-taked (sic). Is this really it? Did I really just make this score?”
Hippen’s score is all the more remarkable because she achieved it in her second year of high school. She is on track to graduate this spring and plans to attend Brigham Young University in the fall.
Air Date: Fri, 02/17/2012