Student Top AP Scholar
When Pinecrest high valedictorian Michael White stepped onto Duke University's campus this fall to begin his freshman year, he had taken roughly the same amount of college courses as a second-semester sophomore.
White took 16 advanced placement (AP) classes -- high school courses that offer potential college credit pending successful performance on the AP final exam -- during his four years at Pinecrest High School. White did well enough on his AP exams to earn the designation of both State AP Scholar and National AP Scholar this month.
"It was never that much work," White says of his high school course load. "At Pinecrest, there are some APs that are easy. Anyone could pass and do well."
But not just anyone can do it like White, according to the AP board.
As a state AP scholar -- the award is given to one male and one female per state -- White has scored a three or higher on the greatest number of AP exams and has the highest average grade on all AP exams taken in the entire state.
The exams are graded on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 as the highest grade a student can earn. White's average score on his 15 exams (he didn't take the exam for one of his classes) was a 4.5.
White also was recognized as a National Scholar for earning an average grade of four or higher on all the AP exams he took. He had a perfect score on 10 AP exams.
Connie Simmons, associate dean of undergraduate affairs at Duke's Pratt School of Engineering -- where White is enrolled -- says 18 AP classes is the known record for the Pratt School.
She hasn't yet checked the statistics for White's class, the high school graduates of 2006. There could have been someone from that group who took more than 18 AP classes, Simmons says.
"But he's up there," she says of White.
And although White says he doesn't remember exactly what his grade-point average (GPA) was when he graduated, he thinks it was between 5.2 and 5.3. His SAT score? A nearly perfect 2250 out of 2400 -- or 1540 if you're going with the old scoring system.
Just don't let those stats fool you into thinking White is some kind of egghead.
He is also an all-state athlete, earning a varsity letter in soccer for four years and a two-year varsity letter in tennis. He was selected as a regional player of the year in 2005 by the North Carolina Soccer Coaches Association.
"He has the reputation of being an all-around excellent student," says Pinecrest guidance counselor Josh Newton. "But the great thing about Michael was that he never acted like that."
White always was goal-oriented, though, and he began taking math classes at Pinecrest when he was in middle school. By the time he entered ninth grade, most of his classmates in his math courses were juniors. He took his first AP class, computer science, as a freshman.
"I wanted to take the APs so I could be valedictorian and get into a really competitive school," White says. "That was pretty much always my goal."
White was accepted to four "really competitive" schools other than Duke: Texas A&M University, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, University of Virginia and Harvard.
By the time he was a junior, White's entire schedule consisted of the college-level classes.
When an AP course White wanted to take wasn't offered at Pinecrest, teachers worked with him to make sure he could take it online. White took five courses that way, including calculus, physics, and economics.
"We've gone and made efforts to make sure he always had the opportunities he needed," says Jennifer Kearney, who is the AP coordinator at Pinecrest and also teaches several science and math classes. "We knew he needed challenging courses, and we went out and found them."
Pinecrest offers 22 AP classes this year, and the school has had several students in the last decade to take more than ten AP exams. But White is the school's first known State AP scholar.
"If you want to take it, Pinecrest is going to let you take it," White says.
White's parents and teachers were never worried, White says, if he could handle the pressure of balancing his extraordinary academic schedule and his extra-curricular activities.
"Michael is an exceptional child," Kearney says. "He's going to prepare above and beyond."
At Pinecrest, White was president of the National Honor Society, involved in the Key Club, and played varsity tennis as an underclassman -- all this on top of being one of the top soccer players in the area.
"Away game days were the hardest," White says. "But you've just got to plan ahead."
Now at Duke, White says he likes the classes he's taking and the people he's meeting. He plans to play club soccer there. At the engineering school, Mike says he'd like to focus on biomedical engineering and maybe start preparing for medical school.
He says he is OK with not being the smartest person at the school.
"Everyone's smart, but no one really flaunts it," he says. "I'm going to try hard, but I'm not going to be disappointed if I'm not on the top. Above average is good enough for me."
White hasn't received a lot of grades back from his course work at Duke, but he does know the score of his first engineering test -- a perfect 100.
Katherine Evans is an intern from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Contact her at 693-2480 or by e-mail a firstname.lastname@example.org.
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