Victoria Chen, 15

Victoria Chen and Congresswoman Judy Chu

Victoria Chen, a junior at Alverno Heights Academy, has earned the highest possible composite score of 36 on the ACT, the leading United States admission test that determines college readiness. On average, less than one-tenth of 1 percent of students who take the ACT earn a top score. In the U.S. high school graduating class of 2016, only 2,235 out of nearly 2.1 million graduates who took the ACT earned a composite score of 36.

The ACT consists of tests in English, mathematics, reading and science, each scored on a scale of 1–36. A student’s composite score is the average of the four test scores. Some students also take the optional ACT writing test, but the score for that test is reported separately and is not included within the ACT composite score.

In a letter to Victoria recognizing her exceptional achievement, ACT Chief Executive Officer Marten Roorda stated, “Your achievement on the ACT is significant and rare. While test scores are just one of multiple criteria that most colleges consider when making admission decisions, your exceptional ACT composite score should prove helpful as you pursue your education and career goals.”

“When I took the ACT, I never would have guessed that I would have gotten a perfect score,” said Victoria. “It was more challenging than I expected it to be but I knew I had still done pretty well. The day the scores were released, I remember checking the site numerous times throughout the day but it kept crashing so I eventually gave up. I ended up just checking it once more before bed and I was surprised to see that number “36” come up on the screen under my name.”

Victoria, who is only 15 years old, is a member of the Accelerated Honors Academy at Alverno Heights Academy. She started at Alverno in the fall of 2014 at just 12 years old after skipping both the seventh and eighth grades. Despite her age, Victoria is enrolled and excels in a rigorous Advanced Placement (AP) college preparatory program at Alverno which includes AP Calculus BC, AP English Language and Composition, AP United States History, AP Biology, AP Environmental Science, Graphic Design, Engineering and Robotics, and Independent Research in Science. Last year, she earned a perfect “5” on the AP Calculus AB exam and hopes to do the same on the AP Calculus BC exam in May. She currently maintains a 4.25 GPA.

Last March, Victoria was selected as a winner of the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth Cogito Research Award. The Cogito Research Award was established to enable motivated students to complete a promising research project in a science, technology, math, or engineering field. Victoria was awarded a special certificate of recognition as well as an award check for $599 to complete her research project. This recognition follows others from CTY including recognition at the CTY Grand Ceremony in 2014 as a student who scored in the top 3 percent of all students who complete the School and College Ability Test—Victoria scored in the 99th percentile in both the verbal and quantitative sections.

At school, Victoria is active in Alverno’s expanding STEM program participating in numerous collaborations with Caltech including the Community Science Academy (CSA), Solar Energy Activity Laboratory (SEAL), and the International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) team. She was an integral part of the Alverno Heights Academy iGEM team that competed in Boston last fall. Victoria and her teammates competed against colleges and universities from around the world including Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Brown and Stanford. The team project proposed using deactivated Cas9 (dCas9) as a DNA clamp to block propagation of supercoiling generated during transcription, improving the modularity, predictability, and scalability of single-vector, multi-gene synthetic systems. After many months of arduous research and commitment, Alverno’s iGEM team earned a Silver Medal in the competition and were recognized for their exceptional achievement by Congresswoman Judy Chu.

With a few more months until the college application process starts for Victoria, she is still working on narrowing down her list although she definitely has her eyes set on one school—Stanford.

“There’s a couple of lists but Stanford is definitely at the top of all them. That’s certainly my dream,” Victoria said. “My hope is to be able to go to Stanford and major in biology so that I can either go onto medical school or graduate school to do research. At least that’s my plan right now.”

“Alverno Heights Academy is so incredibly proud of Victoria and this once in a lifetime accomplishment,” said Julia V. Fanara, Head of School. “Last year fewer than 2,500 students earned a perfect score on the ACT and the fact that Victoria is only 15 years old makes this achievement so much more momentous! She was one of the first students admitted to the official Accelerated Honors Academy at Alverno, which only continues to grow and expand each year, and it has been a privilege to watch her grow and thrive with it. We look forward to many more successes and providing these exceptionally gifted young women like Victoria, along with all of our students, the opportunity to grow and excel in a nurturing and college preparatory environment like Alverno.”

About Alverno Heights Academy

Alverno Heights Academy is an all-girls, independent, progressive Catholic, college preparatory school dedicated to its mission of empowering each young woman to be exactly the person she wants to be. Located on the property of the former Barlow Estate in Sierra Madre, California, Alverno Heights Academy was founded in 1960 by the Sisters of St. Francis who sought to create an environment in the San Gabriel Valley where young women could become informed and knowledgeable persons. Later renamed Alverno High School and sponsored by the Immaculate Heart Community, Alverno’s program—academic, spiritual, aesthetic, social, and physical—has been shaped by the staff, trustees, and students. As Alverno Heights Academy once again, the school remains committed to its mission by encouraging each of their young women to be who they imagine. For more information about Alverno Heights Academy, please visit