NSA student scores perfectly on ACT

Published 8:28 pm Monday, July 23, 2018

Tests scores, grades and extracurricular activities can be crucial for any high school student, and senior year is when the stress tends to peak. This isn’t the case for Nansemond-Suffolk Academy rising senior Mason Harrell.

Mason did what few have done before — he received a perfect score on the ACT.

The perfect score for the ACT is a 36, and they take a composite score of five sections (one section is optional). Less than 1 percent of ACT test-takers receive a perfect score, and in 2017 only 2,760 students out of more than 2 million scored a 36.

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While his family was on vacation, Mason was at home waiting for the clock to strike midnight to check his score.

Mason Harrell

“I actually stayed up, because the scores are released at midnight, and I wanted to stay up for it,” Mason said. “My parents and sister were on vacation and I checked after midnight, but I couldn’t tell any family because I assumed they were asleep.”

It wasn’t the original plan for Mason to take the ACT, but a Nansemond-Suffolk Academy college counselor recommended that he try the test just to see what would happen.

What was shocking for Mason about his ACT score was how he managed to do so well with very little ACT-specific preparation.

“I didn’t really prepare at all. I had prepared for the SAT and I took it in August, and then I took it again the following June one week before I took the ACT,” Mason said. “The tests are somewhat similar, but I think most of the prep carried over.”

The SAT preparation helped him with the subject matter, but the difficult part for Mason was the time constraint with the ACT.

“The time constraint makes it a lot more difficult, because you have to move faster on the ACT than the SAT,” Mason said. “That was a little unexpected.”

Along with a perfect ACT score, Mason also received 1540 on the SAT, just 60 points away from a perfect score.

His perfect ACT score, along with the strong SAT score, has lifted a weight off of Mason’s shoulders when it comes to moving on to post-secondary education.

“I think I’m not as worried, and I’m more confident,” Mason said. “Now I just need to write good essays, since I won’t have to be worried about test scores.”

Mason plans on studying engineering, and he has plans to apply to some prestigious universities — University of Virginia, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, Princeton University, University of Columbia, Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

While Mason doesn’t have to be as stressed about his performance, he thinks he might feel pressure living up to his perfect ACT score.

“All I can do is do the best I can do in my classes and try to stay well rounded,” Mason said.

Education has been important to Mason throughout his time at Nansemond-Suffolk. He has taken multiple Advanced Placement classes, and during his junior year, he took five AP tests. He received a perfect score, 5, on four of them.

Mason’s college applications don’t sport only impressive grades. Mason is also part of the band at NSA, playing the baritone horn, and he is also involved in sports, playing both baseball and lacrosse.