Two juniors at Prior Lake High School have earned a 36 on their ACTs, the highest possible composite score, Prior Lake-Savage Area Schools announced earlier this month.

Around 0.2 percent of ACT test-takers get the score, according to the testing organizatoin. Scores are averaged among four subject areas and can help students win acceptance and academic scholarships for post-secondary education.

The two in recent interviews said they’re still working on their post-high-school plans and were surprised by their ACT test results. They also shared some thoughts about testing in general and the importance of other parts of their education.

Ella Nelson

Ella Nelson

Ella Nelson

How’d you feel getting that perfect score?

Pretty good. I kind of got a feeling I did at least pretty well, but when I opened the envelope and saw I got a 36, I was surprised. I was thinking, is this the right score? Is this mine?

How had you prepared for it?

Last year I took a practice ACT, which helped me know what it was like and kind of what I needed to work on and what my strengths were. I got a 30 on that. Honestly, I didn’t do a lot of specific prep for the ACT. My classes were mostly AP and honors classes, and stuff we learn about helps you prepare.

What do you think of standardized testing?

I think there’s definitely a purpose for standardized tests. They offer a numerical estimate of where students’ academic abilities are. It’s not a completely accurate way to assess intelligence. Like some people are better testers than others, and there are things you can’t measure by testing.

I’m kind of lucky in the sense that I’m good at them. At the same time, there are other things I need to work on. It’s not all about who has the best test scores. There’s more to life than that.

What comes next in life after high school?

Honestly, I haven’t worked out the details yet. All my life I’ve loved animals, so I know I want to work with them. Colleges, I’ve started looking, and I’ve done research, but I haven’t picked a favorite yet.

What made you interested in animals?

I’ve just always really loved them. I have pictures from when I was a year old — I was outside sitting in a flowerpot, digging for animals and stuff. For my first few years, I lived in Texas, and I would watch geckos on the window. I got my first pet when I was 8, a guinea pig, and he was an important part of my life. There was one point when I did a lot of research on dogs because I really wanted one. I got one when I was 11, and she’s still an important part of the family.

What advice would you give other students heading into the ACT?

For some people, studying helps a lot. The practice test was helpful because we got to see what the test was like, the format and stuff. I think it’s important to remember that you can take the test again if you don’t do well. And it’s not like you need a 36 to be successful, either. There are so many things that can show what kind of person you are, where your strengths are. Sometimes you don’t need all that pressure, and sometimes you do better if you don’t worry about it.

Izzy Lundquist

Izzy Lundquist

Izzy Lundquist

Did you expect to get a perfect ACT score?

No. I took it, and I was like, OK, I’ll be surprised if it’s a 33.

I didn’t know what a 36 would feel like. I was at school. Going into the bathroom, I logged in on my phone, saw the score, and my hands started to shake and my heart started to beat fast. I could not believe I had gotten a perfect score. It was funny finding out in the bathroom.

Do you do any extracurriculars? How do academics fit into that?

Knowledge Bowl, the robotics team and the Honor Society. I really enjoy school. I’ve always liked to learn, but I like to be a human, too. That’s where extracurriculars come into play. One thing that’s important to me is not just developing my academics but developing as a person. Having a good balance and not stressing myself out about grades 24/7, maybe just 23/7, has helped make me a well-rounded person.

What are your thoughts on standardized tests in public schools?

They’re good in some ways, bad in others. There’s a problem in the U.S. with grade inflation where students aren’t putting in work but are getting good grades. Because there are unfair standards for what an A is, I think standardized tests are good for comparing aptitude. But I know a lot of kids who are smart but aren’t good test-takers. I got into ACT tutoring because I want to help kids get scores that will reflect their intelligence.

Have you figured out what you’ll do after school?

I’m going to a college, and hopefully I’ll study something. Perhaps business and marketing. My dream is to go to Princeton, but of course we’ll see how that works out.

Why Princeton?

I took a tour there over break in the fall. I love not only the campus but the rigorous academics. Students are made to write a lot, which is crucial no matter what field you go into. The students seem to be passionate about learning. The campus is beautiful. It’s in a great location.

What is some advice you’d give to students heading into the ACT?

Don’t freak out too much about drilling in practice tests if it makes you stressed out. The ACT test I prepped the most for I did the worst on. Try to stick to a few areas where you think you’ll really improve. Do those until you feel like you’re getting good at it. Get good sleep, eat a good breakfast and bring snacks.


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