By Anya TikkaMILFORD — Drake Eshleman said things just worked out on the fateful day he sat down to take the SATs.
“I slept enough, made sure I had the right things to eat, and drank enough," said the modest 17-year-old Delaware Valley student. "There are many students who could get the same results. I’m not that smart.”
Drake scored a perfect 800 score in math and reading in his Scholastic Aptitude Test, the standardized test most widely used by college admissions officers — and most widely dreaded by high school seniors. Getting a perfect score is exceedingly rare. Less than 0.025 percent of high school seniors in the U.S. get one.
Drake also got 690 in writing.“A lot of kids have it in them,” he said, encouragingly. “My teachers were not surprised at my results, but it doesn’t happen every day. They didn’t expect anyone to have a perfect score. It was good fortune.”
Drake praised his teachers — math teacher Ms. Katz, and reading and writing teacher Ms. Zarzecki — for their advanced instruction, which he needed to ace the test.
“I think I’m a little bit lucky," he added. "I’m good at taking tests.”
But Drake trained for the SATs. His method was to answer the daily sample question at collegeboard.org, and to study his practice SAT.
"It gets you used to what kinds of questions they ask,” he said.
Drake took practice test, called the PSATs, twice, but his results were not as high as the SAT results.
“A lot of people think the SAT is, content-wise, not as hard as PSAT," he said. "But the reason it’s hard is that it lasts longer, and so it’s more tiring.”
Drake’s excellent results took a while to filter through the school. But eventually high school principal Brian Blaum called him in to congratulate him. Soon he was surrounded by proud teachers, friends, and administrators.
Drake said he didn’t want publicity.
“The school did it for me," he said. "'Elementary School News' wants to interview me, and I’m on the billboard."
Math makes him 'family oddball'
Drake has a sterling academic record, maintaining a high grade-point average throughout his school career. He's currently taking Advanced Placement classes in language and composition and pre-calculus.
His dad is a firefighter and his mom works at the school caféteria. His family is "very smart," he said, but "math is not their thing."
Drake is bucking family tradition. “I’m a math person, but I’m the oddball in the family,” he said.
Math always been easy for him. As early as elementary school, he knew he wanted to work field that requires lots of math. His dream is to become a pure mathematician or statistician.
“I just love statistics, and there are a lot of opportunities in that field," he said. "A lot of people don’t know statistics, so they need people who can explain it so an average person can understand it."
Or he might teach math at the college level. His hope is to go to Princeton — “something that I’ve always wanted" — or the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He's not limiting his options.
As far as reading is concerned, his perfect score came as a surprise. “I never considered myself great at English," he said.
Wide-ranging interestsBut Drake has a wide range of interests. “I like to keep myself busy with a lot of things,” he said. He's especially involved in music and dance, which appeal to his sense of rhythm. He plays piano and viola, and sings in the school chorus.
“We always had music playing in the house,” said Drake. “It was all kinds of music, some classical, anything, but a lot of it was Fred Astaire, American popular music.”
He was recently accepted into the All Eastern Choir, which includes the best student musicians in 13 Eastern states. Players only get in by audition after first making it to the state-level choir.
He also loves ballet, and dances at the Dance Center in Port Jervis. Dance brings his talents together.
“In dance, you have to memorize choreography and structure, and remember what comes next," he said. "You have to be able to analyze your part, and to improve. And you can’t have music without rhythm and math. I think what helps me is I’m good at analyzing things."
As happy as his SAT results make him, he's glad to have the experience behind him now.
“I think my reaction after the SAT was almost relief," he said. "I don’t have to take them again. Now I can work on touring colleges, community service, college applications — anything I can do to get into college.”