Soaring To Higher Scores


Academic achievement is on display at Nixa High School. The ACT Wall in the commons features posters of those who scored a 31 or higher on the ACT. The long digital screen on the side of the wall shows the names of people who scored from 25 to 30.
Junior Isaiah Holgerson scored a 35 on the ACT, which is why his poster is on the wall. He has been weighing college options.
“College is a crazy concept,” Holgerson said. “Just as a junior and getting ready to go someplace for four years of my life to enter a career, that’s a big responsibility. One thing the ACT has done for me is given me a lot of opportunity and it has relieved a lot of stress, since certain places will reward merit-based scholarships.”
Senior Susan Hardy scored a 32 on the ACT. She possibly plans to go to college to study social sciences, but she applied to many other schools that did not require an ACT score.
“I still sent my ACT in because I wanted it to still be considered for things like scholarships,” Hardy said.
Junior Bryce Reeves earned a 31 on the ACT. He plans to apply to Washington University in St. Louis, John Hopkins, Michigan University or St. Louis University, where he’ll go into the medical field.
“Through my high school classes I have been focusing on science,” Reeves said. “I’ve been focused on the medical field. Maybe [I will be] an orthopedic physician [or] surgeon of some kind.”
There can be a lot of emotions associated with the test.
“My first time I took it I was absolutely clueless,” Hardy said. “You fill out some preliminary information at the beginning, like your name, your address and the number on your ACT booklet. I was just writing everything in the wrong spot. I was so nervous my first time, but I think gradually I got more comfortable with it, and I stopped doubting myself.”
The pandemic has made testing more stressful than usual.
“Taking the test for me was really weird,” Holgerson said. “I’ve taken it one time before this a while back, but when I took it was June 2020. It was the first ACT test since COVID, and it was crazy. There was so much stress, we were all masked, we were all spread out, we were all carefully placed in our rooms. So that kind of built up the stress anxiety of, ‘Oh snap, this is really happening.’”
Any time Holgerson got lost, he’d remind himself to push through to get the results he wanted.
Hardy took the test at the beginning of her sophomore year.
“I think that part of the way to prepare is your mindset going into it,” Hardy said. “If you’ve gotten a lot of sleep and you’re feeling mentally prepared. I think that’s a lot of it — feeling confident.”
The ACT Wall has sparked controversy within NHS. Some see it as a way to reward academic achievement, but not everyone agrees.
“There have been a couple of parents and students who thought that the wall was not a positive thing to have, but it’s no different than recognizing a sports team who does well,” Joy Horgan, a counselor at NHS, said. “Anything won as a group or individually you can see in our trophy cases and on the walls, and so the administration and myself just felt like it was the same concept.”
Hardy understands why there is some debate.
“I know that there are a lot of people who don’t care about it, but some people really care because our society does put a lot of emphasis on standardized testing and the ACT,” Hardy said. “A lot of people think putting up people who got higher scores is kind of glorifying the thing society puts so much emphasis on. With that [it’s important] to keep in mind that the ACT isn’t the definition of how intelligent you are.”