Six Andover Seniors Earn Presidential Scholar Status

The United States Presidential Scholars Program has recognized six Phillips Academy students as semi-finalists for 2007. Seniors Courtney Fiske of Massachusetts; Sarah X. Guo of New Hampshire; Yunsoo Kim of Massachusetts; Archana Rajender of North Dakota; Noah Warren of Rhode Island; and Jiyuan Zhu of Massachusetts remain in the field of 550 high school hopefuls from across the country. The United States Presidential Scholars Program was established 42 years ago by order of President Lyndon B. Johnson. The program’s goal is to honor and distinguish high school seniors with great potential for the future. Initially, 2,600 student selections are made based on test scores from either the SAT or the ACT. Twenty males and 20 females are then selected from each state, from the District of Colombia, from Puerto Rico and from United States citizens living abroad. Once selected, these students submitted an extensive application in order to qualify for the semi-final grouping of 550 students. Questions in this application ranged from what a student would do with an infinite amount of time to describing how they have made a difference in their communities. Noah Warren described this application as a longer, slightly hollow college application. Gerta Mosca of the College Counseling office commented on the semi-finalists’ achievements as being very significant. Mosca said, “There are so many more applicants than semi-finalists such that the program is all about competition and how good the students are. We’re not sure why some individuals are selected over others, but it can be assumed, like in any other competition, that the best ones win.” The College Counseling office plays an intricate role in the Presidential Scholars Program, writing extensive recommendations for the students. Upon hearing of their selection, the general reaction by the Andover semifinalists was apathy and surprise. Courtney Fiske said, “I didn’t even know what the program was at first. You can ‘qualify’ for a lot of these kinds of programs but you never really know if they are legitimate. Now…I know it’s a big deal.” In fact, majority of the students did not know of this program until after nomination. They simply strived to perform well on the SAT. As in this program, the student’s SAT scores are all in the high 700’s to 800 for each subject. Each scholar had different ways of preparing for the standardized examinations, though none of the students said they took practice classes or used tutors. While Warren said he did not study at all, Kim, Fiske and Rajender each recommended using SAT study books and beginning to study early. Now, in the semifinals, the White House Commission of Presidential Scholars will further assess the remaining candidate’s applications. In June, one male and one female winner from each state will receive their medallion awards at a ceremony sponsored by the White House in Washington D.C. During this free trip to Washington, the 141 finalists will visit museums, attend concerts and listen to various speakers. With the application portion of the process completed and the contest out of their hands, the semi-finalists are curious of the coming decision. Rajender said, “It’d be nice to win because it’d be fun to travel to Washington and meet people but losing won’t be the end of the world.” A number of the distinguished scholars selected in this program move on to elite colleges. In 2006, 55 out of the 141 winners of the Presidential Scholars Program went on to attend Ivy League Schools. In terms of Andover’s semi-finalists school selections, Fiske and Kim will both attend Harvard, Warren will be attending Yale, Zhu will attend MIT and Rajender is still undecided but leaning towards a Medicine Program at Hopkins. Since the Presidential Scholars Program founding in 1964, Andover students have been honored numerous times. In the last 18 years, seven Andover students have been finalists. The most recent recipient of this academic award is Charles Frentz ’06. Last year Charles won the award as a male resident in Maine due in part because of his service experiences in Guadeloupe and India. Frentz has since moved on to attend Harvard University.