Nathan Chandler, a senior at Itawamba Agricultural High School (IAHS) scored a perfect 36 on the ACT.
Chandler first took the test during his sophomore year and scored 33. Though an impressive score, he set out with a plan to get his score higher.
“Getting used to taking the test and understanding the format is just one step in the process,” he said. “Getting your score up higher is a grind.”
After receiving his scores the first time, Chandler evaluated his strengths and weaknesses to better prepare himself for taking it again. He offers that same advice to any students who want to better their scores.
“Look at what you need to improve on and focus on that,” he said. “Sometimes you feel good about it and other times it may not make sense, but keep at it.”
Chandler also says time management is an important factor in taking the ACT. To make sure he stays on track, the senior carries a pocket watch.
“When taking the test you need to manage your time well,” he said. “Keep a watch with you at all times and don’t spend too much time on one question, you need a good calculator as well.”
As a part of the Scholar’s Bowl team, Chandler credits its leader Chris Johnson with helping him prepare for the test.
“There’s no way I could have made the 36 without his help,” he said. “He’s done a lot for me in that respect. Also, my teachers Thomas Clayton and Chris Holder have been influential and helped me prepare.”
Chandler also serves as a senior class representative on the student council and is a first chair trombone player for band. As a hobby, he makes candles and markets them to fellow students.
“I just felt like I wanted to pursue a hobby and since ‘chandler’ is someone who makes and sells candles, that’s what I chose,” he said.
According to the congratulatory letter Chandler received ACT CEO Martin Roorda, fewer than half of 1% of test-takers earn a score of 36. Just 4,879 out of 1.8 million U.S. high school students in the class of 2019 who took the exam scored a perfect 36.
Since receiving the news, Chandler has applied to three colleges, MIT, Georgia Tech and Mississippi State. He plans to pursue a degree in engineering.
“I really enjoy anything math-related and how it applies to the real world,” he said. “My preference is MIT but that will be dependent upon acceptance.”
Chandler met with the representative from MIT on Saturday for a formal interview but will not hear from the college until March as to whether or not he has been accepted. As a part of the MIT process, he was required to write five essays and discuss them. He chose the candle-making process as one of them.
He is one of two students from IAHS to earn the prestigious ranking. Graden Jarrell, a junior, also had a flawless test.
“We are very proud of these two young men,” Itawamba County School Superintendent Trae Wiygul said during the January school board meeting. “We have several students who have scored more than 30 as well. That says a lot for both our students and our teachers.”