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Perfection: Gering grad earns rare top ACT score, heads for M.I.T.
May 20, 2016 Jerry Purvis   

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Collin Potts, a top Gering Bulldog graduate delivers a graduation address to his class. Ken Kurtz/ Spectrum Photography


It is a number which reflects a perfect score on the American College Test, which theoretically gauges a students’ high school achievement and readiness for college. For 2016 Gering graduate Collin Potts, by testing well, he made the grade and then some.

Potts, who was one of Gering’s 5 valedictorians at the Bulldogs’ commencement ceremony on May 15, earned a perfect score on the ACT, which incidentally is more a distant memory because he took the test in June 2014, just before his junior year.

Potts said he received the results about a month later that summer. “I was afraid to look up the scores myself. I had my dad look at them for me.”

According to Gering High School Guidance Counselor Sharyl Hamer, one tenth of one percent of all students taking the ACT will get a perfect score. This year, 3.3 million students across the country took the test – and 689 of them earned a perfect score.

“That high a score is definitely a plus for students during the application process,” Hamer said. “Colleges will also look at the student’s grade point average, extracurricular activities, and letters of recommendation.”

This fall, Potts will attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, to major in physics. He already made up his mind to attend the prestigious school in Boston his freshman year.

While he’s not sure about his focus of study, he enjoys astrophysics. Or, he might take his talents to the engineering part of physics, which would involve Potts in the development of new technologies, a more practical advancement, as opposed to developing theories.

“Collin’s score is a plus because he’s going to M.I.T., where the average ACT score of students is 33 to 36,” Hamer said. “His score makes a huge difference for a school of that caliber.”

There are other perks for earning a perfect score. Collin was recognized as a Presidential Scholar by the U.S. Department of Education, and by Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts.

The test covers English, reading, math and science. Potts said he and other students did a lot of practice exams the year before the actual test. “I figured out the subjects I had the most trouble with or knew the least about and spent extra time reviewing those subjects.”

Hamer said Gering had a number of students who scored in the 30s on their ACT. “I think that’s in part due to the curriculum we offer. We’re also an ACT test center, so students can test in a familiar environment. That’s beneficial, but the curriculum and the staff that teaches it has a lot to do with our success.”

What’s the key to such a high level of academic success? Potts said the first step is paying attention in class. “I figured I wouldn’t have to study that much if I paid attention and took careful notes. When a test comes up, I go through my notes to relive the class. I’m not really very good at studying.”

Gering High School Principal Eldon Hubbard said doing that well on the ACT is a major accomplishment. “Kids who score that well on the ACT don’t have to look for colleges to attend. The colleges come looking for them. I think Collin’s success shows we’re preparing kids for wherever the future leads them, to college or to the workforce.”

He added that Collin is the kind of student who wasn’t satisfied with just fulfilling the requirements for graduation. He sought out other opportunities, taking advanced online courses which weren’t offered at Gering.

“We’ve seen Collin really grow as a student in the years he’s been at the high school,” Hamer said. “He came in as a sophomore who wasn’t all that outgoing. But he got involved in band, in the speech team, in the musical – all the things that were out of his wheelhouse. Getting involved really opened him up as a person.”

Potts said it all started with speech in his freshman year, a time when he didn’t talk all that much to people. “I was just too shy to start conversations,” he said. “I had ideas but didn’t want to vocalize them. Speech really helped me in being able to talk with other people.”

From there, Potts joined the high school band and was selected to play in the All-State Band this year. Plus, he got involved in the spring musical and fall plays. This year, he’s appeared in “Matchmaker” and took one of the leads in the musical “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.” Coincidentally, his character’s name was Caractacus Potts.

When asked what advice he’d give to students, he said, “Find a subject you’re most passionate about and put your time into it as well as the other required subjects.”

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