Two students in the Olathe School District have earned an elite distinction by achieving a perfect score on their ACT exam.
Annabelle Darby, a senior at Olathe North High School, and Hanna Carney, a senior at Olathe South, each scored a 36 on the ACT. It’s a rare accomplishment when you consider that less than 0.1 of students nationwide who take the test earn a perfect score.
For Olathe North’s Darby, the perfect score almost didn’t happen, because she almost didn’t take the test a third time. After all, she earned a 34 the first time she took it as sophomore and a 35 when she took it a second time as a junior.
Darby recalls how her parents told her that a 35 was good enough and that they didn’t think she needed to take it a third time.
“They discouraged me from taking the ACT again and I had to pay for it myself,” she said with a laugh. “So, I asked them if I get a 36 will you reimburse me the money it cost? So, now they will have to do that.”
Even though Darby was aiming for perfection when she took the exam again in October, she said she was still shocked when she learned of her score. She was up past midnight working on homework when she went online to check her score and found out the good news.
“It was the middle of the night, so I couldn’t tell anyone in my family because they were asleep, so I texted my friends instead,” Darby said.
Darby’s accomplishment comes amid a busy high school schedule that includes taking several advanced-placement classes and participating in extracurricular activities — including choir, theater and scholars bowl.
She plans to attend Kansas State University, where she will pursue a double major in biology and vocal performance with a minor in Japanese, a language she has been studying for a while.
Meanwhile, the second time was the charm for Carney when it came to achieving ACT perfection. She scored a 33 last February when she took the test for the first time.
Wanting to push herself just a little more, she decided to take the exam again last April and was glad she did when she found out she earned a score of 36.
“I was really, really excited when I found out my score because I feel like it opened up a bunch of doors for me,” Carney said. “I feel like I can go to any school in the country now.”
Since earning a perfect ACT score, Carney has expanded her college search from local state universities to Ivy League schools — like Brown University, Cornell University and Yale University. She also plans on applying to Stanford University.
She is undecided on her major but is considering pursuing her passion for writing. Carney would ultimately like to become a novelist.
She credits her perfect ACT score with giving her the courage to dream new dreams for herself.
“I just have more self-confidence now,” Carney said. “I always figured I would be a scientist or mathematician but I am now setting my mind on becoming a writer.”
Carney said she’s always been a perfectionist and that trait helped her when it came time to take the ACT a second time. When she got her first score of 33, she realized how close she was to getting a perfect score of 36.
She said she took nine practice tests between the time she took the test in February and then again in April.
Carney juggled all of the ACT prep with her full course load of advanced-placement classes. She also managed to fit in a busy extracurricular schedule that includes being captain of her school’s dance team, an officer in National Honor Society, the lead tutor at her school’s writing center, and a member of her school’s history club, math team, and service club.
Carney sees her perfect ACT score as a great motivator for her.
“If anything, it makes me want to work even harder,” Carney said. “Now, it’s like what is the next thing that I can accomplish?”