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‘Perfect’ label hasn’t gone to his head

MHS student who aced tests says his life is the same

By Bryan Richardson

Manhattan High School senior Austin Canady has achieved the amazing, yet it hasn’t really affected his daily life.

His perfect scores on the ACT and SAT don’t command a line of people rushing to him like being a star athlete would. There isn’t an increase in colleges sending him mail.

Still, Canady has the satisfaction of doing something most haven’t. “It feels pretty good,” he said. “A self-confidence booster, I guess.”

Canady mostly received the attention of his parents, Katrina and John Canady, and his closest friends. He said neither group seemed really surprised about his scores.

Canady said the principals have also given him attention. “I think that’s the first time they learned my name,” he said. “I’ve never been called to the office for being in trouble.”

Other than that, it’s been mostly tame, and Canady’s low-key approach is part of the reason.

“I try not to go around and brag about it,” Canady said. “I don’t want to seem conceited.”

Earning perfect scores on the SAT and ACT is special, but just how special it is will remain one of life’s mysteries. SAT and ACT officials said they don’t have the data for the students who take both tests, so the rarity of a double perfect score can’t be determined.

For the class of 2012, 360 students, or 0.022 percent of the more than 1.66 million test takers, achieved a 2400 perfect score on the SAT.

It’s a bit more likely to get a perfect score on the ACT with 781 students, or 0.047 percent out of more than 1.66 million, earning a perfect 36 in the 2012 class.

Canady said he earned a 35 when he took the ACT after his sophomore year at MHS. That would have been more than adequate, but Canady felt he could achieve a perfect score.

Canady did just that after his junior year. “For the ACT, I worked a lot for that one, so I wasn’t as surprised,” he said.

Canady said he took the SAT because he was a National Merit semifinalist. He needed to do well to become a National Merit finalist and be in line for a scholarship.

Canady took the SAT in October and planned to take it only once. “With all the homework I already had and tests and studying, I didn’t put that much time into studying for the SAT,” he said. “So it was definitely a surprise.”

Canady attributed part of his success to teacher Jacob Thies’ AP U.S. History class last school year, which he described as the hardest class he has ever taken. He said it helped develop critical thinking skills, the most important aspect of either test.

Gaining the knowledge base he needed for the tests was easier for Canady than it is for many students, in part because he enjoys studying.

“I love learning,” he said. “Most people are at school and completely dread it, so they don’t take time to read outside of school or they take a math assignment and forget it after it’s over.”

A student who gets straight A’s and perfect scores on the SAT and ACT could be stereotyped as someone who lacks a social life and only knows books.

Canady said he’s definitely not a bookworm like people would think. He’s like the average student, just smarter. History and biology are his favorite classes, but he also has a least favorite class: English.

Canady spends a lot of time with friends, especially when he has more time during the weekends and school breaks. He said he stays away from drugs and alcohol.

“I still have fun with friends without going to parties, getting drunk and things like that,” he said.

Canady was on the swim team during his freshman and sophomore years. “I guess I was pretty good at it, but it wasn’t for me,” he said. “It’s a lot of work and I didn’t really enjoy it.”

He has his academic groups — Science Olympiad, Medical Explorers and Scholars Bowl — but he also participates in his church youth group and volunteers in the emergency room at Mercy Regional Health Center.

Canady said his parents support him in his academic exploits. “They’re not the type of parents who would get really mad at me if I got a B or a C,” he said. “But they definitely are happy when I get A’s. They promote it a lot.”

The K-State Department of Planning and Analysis produced a few instances of students who earned perfect ACT scores enrolling in the university. SAT scores aren’t considered for admission to K-State, so the university doesn’t track those numbers.

In fall 2008, a junior had a perfect score. In fall 2009, one concurrently enrolled high school student posted a perfect ACT number. This fall, a freshman had a perfect score.

K-State could receive another perfect-score student if Canady decides to attend. He has applied to K-State, the University of Kansas and Westminster College in Fulton, Mo.

That’s it. He could go anywhere, but he’s stuck to those three. “I have a lot of people ask me why I didn’t apply to Ivy League schools,” Canady said.

Canady said those schools are expensive. Ivy League schools only issue scholarships based on need, so Canady’s perfect scores wouldn’t equate to a full-ride as it likely would be at KSU, KU and Westminster.

Canady said the schools also don’t have an education major. He is interested in becoming a history teacher.

Canady applied to K-State and KU because they are close to home. He has lived in Manhattan since the fourth grade, so K-State was an obvious draw, although it might be too close to home. Canady said KU has an excellent honors program, which interests him.

Westminster first came into the picture because of his interest in history. It was the site of Winston Churchill’s Iron Curtain speech.

“It was an amazing place,” he said about his visit to the college. “There are only about 1,000 students there, but there’s a ton of activities to do.”

Canady said the social aspect also will play into role in his decision. He’ll have to make all new friends at Westminster, but he knows people going to K-State and KU.

Regardless of his decision, Canady said he wants independence. “I want the shift from high school to college to be more than just harder classes,” he said.

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