A Stillwater High School senior has accomplished an incredibly rare feat in the world of standardized college entrance exams, but you won’t hear him bragging about it.
Nicco Wang, who earned perfect scores on the ACT and SAT exams he took as a junior, said he got the results back in the spring, but the recent attention he’s receiving, first reported by the Stillwater News Press, likely sprang from yet another achievement, when he was recognized as a November senior of the month at the Noon Lions Club.
He remembered the surprise of the results, though, like it was yesterday, describing the scores as gifts that brought him and his family pure joy.
Of the millions of high school students who take the ACT each year, only about one-tenth of 1% of students earn a top score of 36, according to the organization’s website. A spokesperson for the College Board, which is over the SAT, said they don’t even track the number of students who earn perfect scores of 1,600, but guess it’s only achieved by a fraction of a percent of millions of test takers, as well.
Wang said he only went into the tests striving to do his best. If he got a great score, he would be happy; but if it was less than great, he wouldn’t be too sad, either, he said.
He didn’t study intensively for the tests, but he has always held education in importance, he said, as his family and his teachers at Westwood Elementary School taught him to do.
Wang said his parents have cared about his educational pursuits since he was young, with trips to the public library and summer programs, but they were otherwise largely hands-off. His teachers at Westwood encouraged him to be the best he could be, and they provided him an environment that fostered his love of learning, he said.
Wang, also a National Merit Scholarship semifinalist, said he especially looks to his older sister, a senior at Columbia University, as a role model.
“She’s really successful and smart but intelligent in other ways and kind,” he said. “That’s something I strive to be as well.”
Wang’s activity outside of academics is playing the violin, which he started in fifth grade, in his school’s orchestra or trying to teach himself guitar and re-learn piano from his childhood lessons.
He said he loves being a part of the orchestra because it’s a group effort to effectively mold and form the expressions of a piece together. His solo guitar and piano jam sessions, however, are “a struggle, but, you know, it’s progress.”
The senior class president is not afraid of failure, and he stays humble in his successes.
“Numbers aren’t everything,” he said. “There’s a lot of intelligence that can’t be measured by a score on a test.”
The school year is already creeping by faster than he had expected, and Wang said he’s currently trying to keep his grades up while also looking to the future. However, when asked about his post-graduation plans, he responded in typical senior fashion: “Oh, man. That’s still a big blur.”
Wang said he’d like to be an engineer of some kind, the “meaningful” type that helps solve world problems and researches cutting-edge technology. So, he plans to pursue a degree in mechanical and aerospace engineering. Where remains the question.
Wang said he’s keeping his options open and applying to in-state schools as well as out of state.
But to any other student looking to follow in his footsteps, he gives encouragement with a hint of caution against perfectionism.
“If I can do it, someone else can for sure,” he said. “A perfect score is great and all, but I think a good score or a great score is just as valuable.”