High achievers: Local students excel on ACT
Carroll County students excelled on the ACT this year.
According to ACT.org, students who make a composite score of 30 or higher are among the 95th to 99th percentile rankings across the nation.
Berryville High School has seven current seniors who all scored a 30 or higher on the ACT.
Amber Veach and Dakota Hall-Alvard both scored a 34. Alex Maldonado scored a 32, and Jake Hill scored a 31. Allison Wisdom, Sandy Carloman and Delwin Portillo all scored a 30.
The students said taking the ACT multiple times helped them improve their scores.
“A few of us actually had the same ACT prep book,” Moldonado said. “It took lots of studying and lots of retaking for me, too.”
“I took it like three or four times,” Wisdom said.
“They say your second time is usually your highest,” said Hall-Alvard, “so I feel like your first time is just getting your jitters out. They also say the ACT is a lot of strategy.”
“I feel like a lot of us were also Advanced Placement (AP) students,” Veach said, “so a lot of us get tips from our AP teachers. Taking different classes this year helped me with my score. We’re in Calculus this year, and that covered a lot of the questions I didn’t know before.”
Maldonado said he felt a little overwhelmed when he learned he had scored a 32.
“I knew what getting that score meant,” he said. “It means a state scholarship that is enormous. It kind of felt redeeming because I can definitely afford college now.”
“I was really happy but a little disappointed. I’m really shooting for a 31,” Wisdom said, “because then I can apply for a free ride at Harding, and that’s where I really want to go to school. I only have one more point to go. I took it again in December, so I’m hoping I achieved that goal.”
Veach said she was excited to score a 34 this year.
“It was a lot higher than my last score of a 32,” she said. “It was really great because I had much better opportunities with a lot of scholarships I was applying for.”
“I was also like Allison in that I wanted a higher score,” Carloman said, laughing, “but like Alex I realized that my score opened up a lot of opportunities for me. It’s actually really good, and I shouldn’t be hard on myself.”
Portillo said he felt proud of his score.
“Me and my three brothers are pretty competitive and I have the highest score out of all of us,” he said, “so the first thing I did was shove it in their face. I was pretty proud. I can get more scholarships than they did. They turned out pretty good on their college stuff, so I was like ‘I should be fine.’ ”
Hill said he was proud of his score but is still hoping to increase it to a 32.
“A 31 gets you a lot of opportunities, but a 32 gets you even more,” he said. “My dad pushes me pretty hard and I got better than him on his ACT score, so I pretty happy about that.”
“I was elated,” Hall-Alvard said. “I went up three points. I hope that it will get me into a good school because for a lot of prestigious schools a 34 is on the higher curve of their averages. I was excited.”
He said he is trying to decide between Columbia University and the University of Central Arkansas (UCA) for his college and wants to double major in astrophysics and dramatic arts.
Hill said he has narrowed it down to the University of Arkansas (UA) and Missouri State University and wants to major in business finance.
Portillo said he plans to enter UCA’s honors program like his brother.
“I’m looking to double major in marketing and psychology,” he said.
Maldonado said he plans to enter the UA honors program or attend Vanderbilt University. He said he wants to study nursing or music.
Wisdom said she hopes to enter the Harding University honors program and plans to major in elementary education.
Veach said she plans to enter the UA honors program and major in biomedical engineering.
“It’s either Yale or UCA for me,” Carloman said. “I want to go into marine biology and maybe minor in English.”
Maldonado encouraged younger students to take the ACT as many times as possible.
“Even if it costs money, find waivers and take it as many times as you can,” he said. “I took it multiple times, and my score went up each time.”
“I took it four times and got 29, 29, 32 and 34,” she said. “Don’t get discouraged.”
Green Forest High School sophomore Owen Cisco scored a 32 on the ACT this year, joining the school’s legacy of high achievers on the exam.
Current seniors Trinity McMahan and Caleb Marroquin and junior Henry Holtkamp all scored over a 30 in previous years. McMahan’s highest score was a 34. Marroquin scored a 31, and Holtkamp scored a 32.
To prepare for the exam, Cisco said he used some of the practice materials provided by the school counselors, and his sister helped him study.
“I reviewed all the study material, and it helped a lot on the ACT,” he said.
He said the most challenging part of the exam is time management.
“There are a lot of difficult questions and you only have a limited amount of time,” Cisco said, “so you don’t want to rush but you also have to be careful about taking your time.”
He said he was shocked to learn he had scored a 32.
“I couldn’t believe it. I thought it was a joke at first,” he said, laughing. “I plan to take the test again and keep trying to improve.”
He said he has not decided where he would like to go to college.
“I’m still looking around and thinking about where I want to go and what I want to do,” Cisco said. “I still have plenty of time.”
Seven Eureka Springs students aced the ACT this year.
Seniors Clover Danos, Isaiah McCurry, Jurny Hammond, Alexis Jayroe and Summer Fish and junior Ethan Weems all scored a 30 or above on the ACT.
Danos, who scored a 34, said she was surprised by how well she did, especially because everyone else knew her score before she did.
“I was waiting for it to come in the mail, and everyone was like ‘Congrats on your score!’ ” she said. “I told them ‘I don’t even know what it was. What did I get?’”
When they told her she had scored a 34, Danos said she had to see the results herself before she believed them.
McCurry, who scored a 33, said he was at an away soccer game when counselor Rachal Hyatt told him his score.
“I had been waiting like an extra week and a half,” McCurry said. “[Hyatt] called me over when we were warming up. My dad was on the phone and told me I got a 33. I was like ‘Cool’ and went and played a soccer game.”
Weems, who scored a 32, said he was disappointed with his results.
“I was upset because I did better on the practice test,” he said. “I’ve taken the ACT twice. The school pays for one, so I’ll probably do that one and call it good.”
Hammond, who scored a 31, said he initially thought they had mixed his score up with someone else’s.
“I didn’t know when the score were coming in,” he said. “I checked the day they came in, and I thought I had gotten somebody else’s score for days. I was shooting for a 28, so when I got a 31 I thought it had gotten mixed up with someone else’s score.”
Jayroe, who scored a 32, said she was surprised with her results because she was hoping to score a 27.
Fish, who scored a 32, said she was compulsively checking the ACT website for two days after she took the test.
“I got my score, and I was surprised I did so well because I had an anxiety attack during the test,” she said, laughing. “I feel like I made my parents proud.”
The students said time management is the biggest challenge with the exam.
“Especially for the reading section,” McCurry said. “I’m not a strong reader, and definitely managing my time on that was the hardest.”
“The time limit on the reading section is ridiculous,” Hammon said, “but I think the most difficult portion overall is math.”
Danos agreed, saying the math section was the most difficult part for her, too.
“We did the practice test on paper and the actual test on the computer,” she said. “I get lazy when we do math problems on the computer, so I don’t always work them out on paper.”
“The paper version is only better because of the math section,” Hammond said.
“We have paper for the computer version,” Danos said, “but you can’t underline stuff or write stuff down next to it.”
“Every other math class you’ve taken is a specific math subject,” Hammond said, “but when you take the ACT it’s such a broad spectrum of math you have to really know what you’re doing.”
McCurry and Weems said they preferred taking the exam on the computer.
“It’s so much easier on the computer,” McCurry said.
“It’s hard because you have to bubble, too, on the paper version,” Weems said, “which makes time management even harder.”
Danos said she got a full scholarship to Dartmouth College and plans to major in creative writing.
McCurry said he plans to go into the pre-medical educational track at UA.
Hammond said he plans to study marketing at UA.
Jayroe said she will be attending the UCA and plans to major in English.
“I’m going to study either psychology or forensic science at who knows where,” Fish said. “I have to compete for a full ride to Hendrix.”
Weems said he plans to go into engineering but has not decided on a college yet.
McCurry said upcoming students should spend more time studying strategies for the ACT.
“You either will know the content or not by the time you’re ready to take it,” he said.
“It’s not as hard as people think it is,” Hammond said. “You just have to be patient. Take it seriously. Don’t think it’s a joke or anything.”
“But don’t panic or over-stress either,” Fish said.
“It’s just a test,” Hammond concluded.