Music is not part of the ACT exam. However, being able to establish a beat is not a bad skill to possess if you are going to try and ace it.
Father McGivney Catholic High School junior Aaron Boulanger came close to achieving a perfect score on the college placement exam last December when he fell one point short of perfection.
ACT scores are accepted by all major four-year colleges and universities in the nation. The assessment has four tests, English, mathematics, reading and science. A student's composite score is the average of the four test scores.
"My first time, I got a 36 on everything, except science," he said.
But tempo was his trouble. He was out of step at the end.
"It came down to the last few minutes, and I had 10 questions left, and so I just scrambled to write stuff down," Boulanger said.
However, this was an issue he knew he could fix.
"I've been a musician since I could walk, maybe slightly before I could walk," said Boulanger, who has considered conducting or composition.
He has played the piano since he was 4, and also plays guitar, saxophone, drums, mandolin, and ukulele.
He also tried the cello and attempted harmonica.
"That didn't go well," he said.
But he calculated a second run at the ACT would.
"I just have a way with numbers, and they have a way with me," said Boulanger, who is also considering exploring a career in engineering.
For preparation the first go around, the evening before the test, he only looked over an old ACT work book from his sister for about an hour.
The second time, he dug in a little deeper, looked at the number of test questions and planned his time accordingly.
He conducted himself with confidence.
"My mom likes to say that she is very proud that I don't get nervous about much of anything. She seems to think it takes a lot to get me riled up, and that's just because, I guess, I know how to keep my cool," the 17-year-old said.
This time, Boulanger hit all the right notes. His composition was a perfect 36.
On average, only around one-tenth of 1 percent of students who take the ACT earn a top score. In the U.S. high school graduating class of 2017, only 2,760 out of more than 2 million graduates who took the ACT earned a perfect composite score.
A top student
Boulanger has been a member of the National Honors Society, Science Olympiad Team, Math Team, Robotics Team, Ethics Bowl Team, Scholar Bowl Team, Catholic Athletes for Christ, Griffins for Life, Drama Club, Band, and is a student ambassador at Father McGivney.
He also competes on the McGivney soccer and track teams. Away from school, Boulanger is also a member of the Glen-Ed Soccer Club and is an active member of St. Paul Parish in Highland.
"I want to get experience in so many different things," Boulanger said.
Currently, Boulanger takes AP English, AP Chemistry, and dual-credit Spanish. The rest of his courses are honors classes.
"Aaron is academically talented and active in his studies. We are proud of his many accomplishments both in and out of school," said Bobbie Madura, the school's student services director.
In addition to earning a 36 on his ACT, he is a finalist for the 2019 National Merit Scholarship Program after scoring a 1490 out of 1520 on the PSAT test.
However, Boulanger said his achievements can be credited to more than just hard work.
"The first glory always goes to God. That's my big thing. I don't do any of this by myself," Boulanger said.
Boulanger also gave credit to his teachers, who helped to hone his skills, and his parents, who fostered his education by sending him to Catholic schools, like Father McGivney and St. Paul Catholic School in Highland.
Boulanger also hopes his ACT score will help his parents, Jon and Karen Boulanger, of Highland, with the cost of college.
"The easier I can make it for them, the happier I will be," he said.
He is still undecided about his future, but he has an idea of where his path might take him.
Currently, he is looking at a few different schools including St. Louis University, Washington University in St. Louis, University of Tulsa, Rockhurst University, Benedictine University, and Franciscan University.
"I have a lot of thinking to do, I guess," Boulanger said.
He hopes to make a decision after exploring his options. As for now, he is looking forward to his senior year and hopes to make more memories with his friend before they are separated by graduation.
"We're just a big family, and I am going to miss it so much," Boulanger said.