BY MICHAEL WALTON
TRAVERSE CITY — Traverse City Central High School students Niki Tubacki and Mike Payne each earned the highest score possible on the ACT, the nation's chief college admissions exam.
And both shared the news with their parents in uncommon ways.
Tubacki, a senior from Mancelona, learned about her score in July while attending a summer engineering camp at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She sent her parents an email after she received her results.
"Not the most personal, but my mom especially was very excited," Tubacki said.
Payne, of Traverse City, couldn't have learned of his aced ACT at a better time.
He'd caused a minor traffic accident during a rainy day in April shortly after he received his score. He turned left into a fast food parking lot and another driver clipped the back of his car.
But his ACT performance gave Payne some good news to balance out the bad news he had to share with his parents.
"So it was a lucky break," he said.
The ACT contains mandatory math, science, reading, and English sections and an optional essay section. Each section is scored on a scale of 1 to 36. Sectional scores are then averaged and rounded to the nearest whole number to devise an overall score.
Payne and Tubacki each fell short of perfect scores on one section. Payne missed a couple of English questions and Tubacki a handful of math questions. But perfect scores on other portions of the standardized test left each student with a 36 overall.
The two seniors are used to academic success. Payne, a policy debate team co-captain and a cello player, tested out of Central's trigonometry class and took calculus as a sophomore.
Tubacki maintains a 4.0 grade point average while she serves on Central's student Senate, the senior class student council, and the school's National Honor Society board.
"I'm very proud of them," Central High School Principal Rick Vandermolen said. "They are students who take advantage of every opportunity in front of them and that's why they are doing so well in school."
Tubacki and Payne have turned their focus to college with graduation roughly six months away.
Both hope to attend MIT and submitted early-action applications to the East Coast university. Both also want to pursue careers in science.
Tubacki wants to major in biological engineering.
Payne said he enjoys physics but likely will study chemistry.
"It's got a lot more application to areas like manufacturing, so I think it would be easier to take a degree outside strictly research," he said.
Neither Payne nor Tubacki know whether they'll be admitted to MIT; they expect to hear from the school later this month. But both understand that working hard and doing well in high school and on the ACT helped their odds of gaining acceptance to the prestigious university.
"Do the best you can so you can get into a good college," Tubacki said. "It's four short years that can help a lot later in life."