High school seniors react to Presidential Scholars candidacy




In late January, Rock Bridge High School seniors Craig Chval, Qinsi Yu and Sarah Zaghouani and Hickman High School seniors Eric Young and Tom Majerus got the big news — they were all named candidates for the prestigious Presidential Scholars Program.

Out of the 3.2 million students expected to graduate from U.S. high schools this year, these students had the SAT and ACT scores to fall into a nationwide group of 3,000 nominated for the award. The candidates also went through an application process.

One young man and one young woman from each state will be chosen for the award in May by a panel selected by President Barack Obama.

The Missourian talked to Young and Chval about their experiences and plans since learning they were named candidates.

Where were you when you got the news?

Craig Chval

Craig Chval

Chval: “I actually found out when Ms. Toalson, the gifted coordinator, told me, ‘Congratulations.’ I was apparently supposed to get the letter in the mail, but I hadn’t yet.”

How did you react?

Young: “I was excited and couldn’t hold back dreams of getting that plaque at Hickman and meeting the president, but then the realization that there have got to be kids in the state who are crazy smart set in. I mean, I’m still excited and hopeful, but I’m a big fan of setting my sights low so I’m not too disappointed.”

Eric Young

Eric Young

Who or what motivated you to succeed in high school?

Young: “I’ve always loved math, and I think that twisted itself into enjoying school. Of course my parents get most of the credit, and I’m ever thankful for their laid-back style of parenting. There was always support for doing well, but never a sense that I needed to get A’s. Maybe they’re geniuses and are using reverse psychology on me, and if so, kudos, Mom and Dad.”

Chval: “I’m an extremely competitive person, so I think my motivation is just to compete with myself and with others. If I know I can get an A in a class, I don’t want to expect anything worse from myself.”

What’s the secret to doing well on the ACT and SAT? To study or not to study?

Young: “Let’s say to semi-study. You’ve got to take it more than once, and while you don’t need to buy an ACT prep book, I think it helps to go over an old test before you take the real one.”

Chval: “I don’t really have a secret for standardized tests. I didn’t study at all, but I kind of regret it now because after getting a 2400 on the SAT, I tried to improve my 35 on the ACT but got 35 again. I think the secret is just figuring out what the question is about.”

What’s your ritual before a big test?

Young: “Look over an old test the week leading up to the test, because nobody wants to take it in one sitting, and go to bed at like 9 the night before. Then wake up, eat breakfast and listen to Jack FM a little louder than usual on the way in. Maybe even put the window down.”

Chval: “I usually wear a jersey of one of my favorite sports teams, which was a tradition I started during math competitions in middle school.”

What are you looking forward to most after high school?

Young: “I’ve come to accept that I don’t like change, so quite honestly, the whole college concept is kind of frightening. Not to mention I’m going to miss all the people in Columbia. Hopefully I’ll meet some awesome kids, and I’ll finally be able to get away from writing and reading classes.”

College plans?

Young: “I’d love to go to Stanford, but we’ll see how that goes. Or Purdue, if they’re willing to be a little more generous with the aid. I plan on studying aeronautical or mechanical engineering, and we’ll see where that takes me.”

Chval: “I’m planning on attending Notre Dame, and I got accepted early action, so I’m looking forward to finishing out senior year without worrying about college.”

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Filed under Columbia-Boone County, Schools

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