Olathe Northwest High School sophomore Zoe Kulphongpatana never expected to walk into the ACT exam and walk out with a perfect score. But that’s exactly what happened for the 15-year-old on her first try at the rigorous academic test when she took it in December.
Now, Kulphongpatana joins a small but impressive group. It’s estimated that less than 0.1 percent of students nationally achieve a perfect score of 36 on the exam, though students in the Olathe School District have done particularly well on the exam recently.
Kulphongpatana is the fourth student in the district to earn a perfect score on the ACT since April.
But she said nobody was more surprised than she was to learn that she’d hit the ball out of the park on the first try.
“Going into the test I was expecting to get a score of between 30 and 33,” Kulphongpatana said. “I didn’t think I did extremely well.”
As a result, she was a little confused when she checked her score on Christmas Day. When she saw the 36 on her computer screen, she thought she was reading an example and not her actual score.
It took waking up her older brother to convince her that she had, in fact, achieved a top score. Once he saw the score, he knew she had accomplished what few others had done before.
“We both started jumping around his room,” Kulphongpatana said. “And then my parents started jumping around and cheering. They were so happy and excited.”
She said her parents were thrilled that she wouldn’t have to take the test a second time.
Kulphongpatana was pretty excited about that, too. She had fully expected to have to take the test again like a lot of her older friends at school.
She was particularly surprised that she did so well, considering that she had only taken one practice test before taking the exam.
But while Kulphongpatana was surprised with her success, those that know her were not.
“We are unbelievably proud of Zoe and her accomplishments,” Olathe Northwest Principal Chris Zuck said in a written statement. “She exemplifies what it means to be a hard-working Raven. Her ACT score is a testament to her abilities which you can see in everything she does.”
Academic success is nothing new for Kulphongpatana, who is currently at the top of her class. She juggles advanced-placement classes with a busy extracurricular schedule that includes playing the violin in the ONW’s orchestra as well being active in FIRST robotics and the Technology Student Association (TSA).
Kulphongpatana is a student in the ONW’s Engineering Academy and said she’s considering a future profession in biomedical engineering.
“I think being in the program has shown me the different types of programs available and what I can do,” Kulphongpatana said. “And it’s grown my interest in engineering.”
For now, Kulphongpatana is still undecided as to where she will attend college. Fortunately, as a sophomore, she still has time to weigh her options.
She said that while she is considering the University of Kansas for college, her perfect ACT score now has her also thinking of applying to her dream schools — Stanford University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
But Kulphongpatana isn’t one to rest on her past accomplishments. While she’s proud of her 36 on the ACT, she knows she has many more goals to set for herself.
“I think in general I am a very hard worker and very competitive,” Kulphongpatana said. “I just want to continue to get better test scores and I will continue to work hard.”