Shawnee Mission South junior Nicolas James aces ACT

Nicolas James, 17, earned a perfect 36 on the ACT.
Nicolas James, 17, earned a perfect 36 on the ACT.

Shawnee Mission South junior Nicolas James says he walked out of the ACT testing room at the school a couple of months ago feeling pretty good about his performance on the college entrance exam.

A gifted student who loves math and science, James had started preparing just a few days before the exam by taking some of the practice tests available on the ACT website. His scores on those practice tests — he took three of the English section tests because he says English is a bit more challenging for him — were good, so he felt confident going into the exam room. As he left, that confidence remained.

“I felt pretty good,” he said. “Not 36 good. But good.”

Indeed, a few weeks after sitting for the exam, James received an email from the ACT organizers letting him know his score was available online. He was at his grandfather’s house when he logged on to find that he had accomplished many prospective college students’ dream: the perfect score.

“I went upstairs and told my grandpa and my sister, and they were really excited,” he said.

James did miss a couple of questions on the exam — in math and science.

“That kind of surprised me, because English courses are a little more difficult for me,” he said.

James thinks he would like to pursue a career in an engineering field of some sort. He’s very interested in aerospace engineering, but doesn’t have his heart set on any specific specialization at this point. As for where he might like to attend college, he says that’s still very much up in the air.

“I’ve got a ton more research to do,” he said.

Three other Shawnee Mission School District Students, Eli Kurlbaum, Peter Haynes, and Yashi Wang, have earned 36s on the ACT this school year. Nationally, only around .1 percent of test-takers get a perfect 36.