From Carson Valley To Massachusetts: Leah McKinney Aces ACT Test

Posted By on May 28, 2015


by Joey Crandall,

“I also had to learn how to take flights from Boston to San Francisco and to use a crosswalk by myself. Yes, the latter would seem an easy thing to learn, but before going to Andover, the only road I’d eve had to cross by myself was a dirt one.”

Carson Valley resident, Leah McKinney has enjoyed an inarguably unique journey over the past several years, all the while blazing a trail toward her future

Wrapping up her junior year at Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass., just 30 minutes outside of Boston, she has achieved something few others can claim to have equaled, and that none can surpass.

McKinney was one of 1,407 students, out of 1.85 million taking the test this year, to earn a composite score of 36 on the American College Testing standardized evaluation.

In other words, she literally aced the ACTs.

Leah McKinney and her favorite ewe, Bossy, in the summer of 2014.

Leah McKinney and her favorite ewe, Bossy, in the summer of 2014.

“I figured I had done well,” she said. “But not that well.

In fact, she was preparing to register for the June test, not yet knowing what her previous result had been.

“I didn’t know when the scored would be released online,” she said. “I checked my account on occasion … I logged in to register (for the June test) and saw that my scores were now available.

“I nervously typed in my password and switched tabs on my internet browser to wait for the page to load. I switched back and was stunned, to say the least … It just seemed too unlikely. Part of me is still in disbelief. I occasionally go back and look at my scores again, just to reassure myself that I didn’t imagine it.”

The ACT consists of tests in English, math, reading and science. Each test is scored on a 1-36 scale, with the composite scoring taking the average of the four test scores.

“I had taken the ACT before in 6th, 7th and 8th grade, so I was familiar with its format, and I figured my education up to that point had prepared me reasonably well.”

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Ah yes, her education.

McKinney took it upon herself to apply for scholarships to private high schools while in the seventh grade.

She was a finalist, and spent that summer and fall reading mailings from different boarding schools around the country. She applied, and was accepted, to Phillips Academy – billed as one of the top college preparatory schools in the country, accepting only 13 percent of its applicant.

Leah McKinney this past winter in Massachusetts.

Leah McKinney this past winter in Massachusetts.

“I had to convince my mom, and she in turn convinced me dad,” she said. “My parents helped me move in that fall and my classes began. I found myself challenged in many new ways. I had hours of homework to complete, in addition to going to orchestra rehearsals, athletics, clubs, etc.”

“I met people from all over the country and world. I’ve learned so much since I started attending Andover, in and out of the classroom.”

Upon learning the results of the test, she then had to share the news with her loved ones without being able to see their faces when she told them.

“I immediately called my mother,” she said. “She was quite pleased, although I couldn’t see the look on her face. My grandmother was ecstatic to say the least. My dad asked me what the highest possible score was.”

With her senior year still to complete, McKinney said she’ll start applying to colleges next year. She said she would like to double-major, probably in biology and linguistics or classics, adding that she currently takes Latin and Attic Greek. Her ultimate aim is to attend medical school and become a pathologist.