Andrew Tran is a standardized test junkie. He’s landed perfect scores in Advanced Placement Geography, Biology and U.S. History, and also International Baccalaureate Chemistry, standard level. He’s scored a perfect 800 on the math portion of the SAT, and has a 36 superscore for the ACT.
As Tran prepares to graduate from Robbinsdale Cooper High School and head to Yale University, he’s remembering the long evenings spent outside of school hours preparing for his future.
“A lot of it is always trying hard in school – I’ve always enjoyed learning – but it’s also working hard out of school,” Tran said.
There were a few AP courses that his high school didn’t offer but Tran wanted to test for them, so he independently studied and tested for AP Calculus, Statistics and Computer Science.
“One of the reasons Andrew has been so successful on college entrance tests and AP tests and IB exams is his ability to learn on his own,” said Brian Kind, a Cooper math teacher. “He has accelerated himself to take tests that are beyond the scope of our in-school courses.”
Kind first came to know Tran when he was trying to revitalize the school’s Math Team. He was astounded by Tran’s accountability and commitment to learning outside of the classroom.
“I remember his 10th-grade mathematics teacher saying that having Andrew in class was like having a second teacher in the room,” Kind said.
Through the years, Tran has counted Kind as his go-to mentor.
College entry exams were a challenge all their own, especially in a pandemic environment.
“During COVID it was kind of annoying because I signed up for a bunch and they kept getting canceled,” Tran said. He took countless SAT and ACT practice tests, and got his name on the list of testing sites wherever he could find them. He remembered one instance in which he had to lug himself, a No. 2 pencil and graphing calculator an hour and a half south of his Robbinsdale hometown to take yet another ACT.
Tran is quick to clarify that he never got a perfect 36 composite score on a single ACT, but universities like Yale now allow applicants to submit their "superscore." Superscoring averages the best scores from each subject across multiple tests. For this purpose, we will follow Yale’s guidance that Tran indeed got a 36, as that is the school that Tran is heading to this fall. He plans to major in computer science, and possibly take on a secondary major in mathematics.
Exercising strengths and trying something new
In his high school career, Tran has taken on numerous personal projects, including a math tutoring app that was chosen for a Congressional Award by Congresswoman Ilhan Omar. They all stem from his love of computer programming, which began at his family’s home computer when he was in second grade.
He began with making simple modifications to the popular video game Minecraft. Through middle school, Tran said he logged thousands of hours on the game, and gained knowledge of programming languages and concepts that soon transferred outside of the world of gaming.
He’s been a co-captain for the Robotics Team, The Thingamajiggers, a president of Cooper’s chapter of the National Honor Society, and has spent two summers as an intern for Abbott Laboratories (soon to be three).
He’s also tried to flex his non-STEM muscles by taking part in the debate team.
“I joined with a public speaking fear,” Tran said with a laugh.
He wanted to be able to speak more confidently on issues that mattered most to him, especially in the current political climate. He joined Congressional Debate, which he described as a mock of the U.S. Congress.
“I wish we could pass some of the bills that we write,” Tran said.
Tran was contacted by an admissions officer from Yale in February that he had a likely acceptance to the school, and by March had received the good news.
He said at a school like Cooper, word of his acceptance to an Ivy League traveled fast.
“I posted on my Snapchat and everyone that I know here knew within a day,” Tran said. “I think when I texted my parents they said they cried.”
Personally, Tran was in shock, a feeling that he still has.
“It feels surreal,” he said. “It’s so surprising.”
Tran said he had employed what he called “the shotgun method” of college applications. Because so many of his choice schools had an acceptance rate of less than 10%, he figured he’d rather be choosy after the acceptance letters came in than before.
“I thought, I have nothing to lose except for the application fee, so I think I applied to 18 schools total,” Tran said.
He added that his counselor, Laura Ritter, was paramount to his success. Ritter is especially happy for Tran, who she said is much more than his transcripts.
“As a National Merit Finalist, an IB Diploma Candidate and a student who achieved a perfect ACT score, Andrew has achieved a lot of success academically. I find that his greatest strengths are being thoughtful, humble and kind. He is greatly admired by his teachers and peers and is always willing to lend a helping hand. I’m excited to see what the future holds for Andrew,” she said.
His math teacher agreed.
“Andrew’s gifts are well known to most of the staff here, and his impact on Cooper will linger for a very long time,” Kind said. “Andrew is a remarkable student, but more importantly, when he is in one’s space the space is a better place.”