Two M-S juniors achieve ACT perfection

Ben Dahl and Melissa Singleton have stories to tell about their ACT experience.

Like many juniors at Mahomet-Seymour High school, throughout the state and across the nation, they took the exam which is offered multiple times a year and are often helpful 

in the college admission process.

Dahl took the ACT in Farmer City in February.

On that same testing date, the exam was given at other schools. Results were posted online.

Many of his classmates knew their scores.

“Everyone was bugging me, but the ones from Farmer City didn’t come up until weeks later,” Dahl said.

It was worth the wait.

He scored a 36.

In the meantime, he had already signed up to retake the test in April at Centennial High School.

“I forgot to cancel,” said Dahl, who calls himself “a very bad procrastinator.”

When the testing date arrived, Dahl was in his seat.

Though he had the score which would be a “keeper,” he couldn’t just rush through the test.

“In some ways, it was more stressful,” Dahl said. “I had to show I can do it again. There was some pressure. I had a reputation to keep.”

He again scored a 36.

It is a noteworthy feat. According to the ACT, less then one-tenth of 1 percent of all students who take the test annually score a 36.

***

Singleton took the ACT for the first time last November. She compiled a score that would be acceptable to many, a 34.

The doors opened at the testing center 30 minutes prior to the start of the exam. Singleton arrived 30 minutes before the doors even opened.

As she marked answers on her test sheet, she was engulfed by a feeling she couldn’t shake.

“I thought I was running out of time,” Singleton said.

She finished with time to spare.

Confident she could do better, she signed up for a retake at Centennial in February.

“This time, I showed up five minutes before, like ‘it’s not a big deal. I can do this,’” she said.

She did.

She, too, scored a 36.

The first person she called when she received the results was her brother, Jacob, a student at the University of Illinois.

Then, she told her parents.

“My dad, was really proud, but not surprised,” Singleton said.

Her mom didn’t have a predictable reaction.

“She asked if it was out of 38,” Singleton said. “I said, ‘No, Mom. I got a perfect score.’”

***

There was one question Dahl and Singleton couldn’t agree upon when interviewed at the high school last week.

Did they think their classmates would have picked one of them as the student in the Class of 2018 who would have scored a 36?

“Definitely him,” Singleton said. “I’m decently smart, but I didn’t expect a 36.”

Dahl had a different view.

“I would have picked you,” he said to Singleton. “You did the best on the advisory tests.”

The two students took opposite approaches in their preparation.

“I did the practice tests in school, and nothing else,” Dahl said.

Singleton signed up for an ACT-prep course offered by Mahomet resident Jason Franklin.

“He helps you a lot,” Singleton said. “He doesn’t just give practice tests. He teaches you how to be smart about the options you choose.”

***

With the 36, Dahl has a better feeling as he continues searching for a collegiate home.

“I feel confident that no one will beat me (for admission) based on the ACT,” he said. “It’s one less thing to worry about.”

The ACT score also means he doesn’t need to be as selective in his search.

“I can look at top schools,” said Dahl, who intends to pursue a degree in engineering.

He plans to look into Cal Tech, MIT, Georgia Tech, Texas and the UI.

Singleton has half of her college decision made.

“I don’t know where I want to go, but I know what I want to do,” she said. “I’ve always wanted to be a doctor.”

She plans to major in biology and minor in Spanish.

Both students’ career choices will continue a family tradition. Singleton’s mother, Deborah, is a doctor at Mahomet’s Carle Clinic.

“It has always been a part of my life,” Melissa Singleton added. 

“I grew up in a hospital. I’m one who actually loves the hospital food at Carle.”

Dahl comes from a lineage of engineers, including his father, his father’s father and his father’s grandfather.

***

Dahl and Singleton are both lifelong Mahomet residents.

Their perfect ACT scores mark the third year in a row that at least two M-S students have scored 36s.

They’re high achievers without constantly hitting the books.

Singleton acknowledges that homework isn’t always high on her priority list.

“Sometimes if I feel I know how to do the work, I’m not motivated to actually finish it,” she said, “but I have it done (by class time) because I know how annoying it is for the teacher to not have it done.”

Dahl can relate.

“I’m not the greatest homework person,” he said. “Most of the time, I get it done in class. If it’s not done in class, it’s usually five minutes before the next class.”

They take pride in continuing a tradition of academic excellence at the school.

“When kids at Mahomet dedicate themselves to something, we have the resources here to be high achievers,” Singleton said. 

“South of Chicago, we have one of the best school systems in Illinois.”

***

Both Dahl and Singleton are involved in multiple activities.

Singleton was a diver this year for the swimming team and is a member of the soccer squad this spring.

She also plays the alto saxophone in the Marching Band and is a member of the school’s Science Olympiad team.

Dahl is not in any sports, noting, “I’m more mentally focused than physically focused.”

He plays oboe in the band and percussion in Marching Band.

He was also a member of the state championship Math team as well as the state championship WYSE team. Dahl is also 

a Scholastic Bowl team member.

Categories (3):News, Education, People

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