Stockdale High junior Aditya Kakarla earned a 36, the highest possible score on the college entrance exam known as the ACT.
It's an impressive feat for a student who has already been taking on big challenges, such as college-level mathematics research and handling digital marketing accounts for local nonprofits.
Less than half of 1 percent of the more than 1.2 million students who took the ACT in 2021 earned the highest possible score as Kakarla did, according to the ACT.
Kakarla said that for the four weekends leading up to the test, he would get up at 7:30 a.m. and take a practice test, which helped him get into the right mode. He said this seemed to help him more than costly SAT or ACT prep courses that his friends took.
"It’s better to just do a lot of practice tests," he said.
It's still a little early to know what Kakarla is planning to do for college, but he enjoys chemistry, physics and math. He's thinking about something involving bioinformatics — a subdiscipline of biology and computer science concerned with the acquisition, storage, analysis and dissemination of biological data, most often DNA and amino acid sequences, according to the website for the National Human Genome Research Institute.
Currently, he's involved in a research project affiliated with Bakersfield College's Math Club. A local science fair judge referred him to a BC professor known for advising students in research: John Brown, professor of mathematics.
"It’s easy to forget that he’s a high school student," Brown said.
Kakarla joined a research group working on creating a tool that determines how severe a patient's case of COVID may be depending on characteristics, such as age, gender, location and other health conditions. It relies on machine learning.
Brown said there's potential for Kakarla and his group to publish a paper on their research. He said an algorithm like theirs could potentially be used by patients to make self-assessments or by public health departments.
Kakarla has also used his interest in machine learning and data analysis to serve nonprofits. After learning about Google's digital marketing programs for nonprofits, he now manages the paid ads for six nonprofits, including three in Bakersfield. He said he's working on an online guide to digital marketing.
Kakarla is also involved in Congressional Debate, earning a bid to the prestigious Tournament of Champions, a national tournament for the high school debate program.
To maintain a community outside school, Kakarla has stayed active in the same Boy Scout troop, ascending to a senior scout.
"I like having that leadership role," he said.