Regional news: Summit high school senior Grant Morgan aces 17 AP exams
Designed by university professors and expert Advanced Placement teachers to be some of the most rigorous and demanding tests offered to high school students, the more than 30 AP exams put out by the College Board every year are one major way college-bound teenagers separate themselves in the highly competitive arena of college-entrance applications.
These AP courses are meant to be as difficult as college-level coursework, and the board that administers them compares the test results with college students’ work in similar classes to ensure the exams are on par with university-level standards.
According to a local college-entrance specialist, Amy Macy, who has more than a decade of experience in the education field, most college-bound high schoolers will take anywhere from a single AP course up to four in any given year. Then there’s Grant Morgan, a 17-year-old senior who’s about to graduate at The Peak School in Frisco and has aced 12 AP exams this year alone, 17 total.
Grant has passed so many AP tests, in fact — often without even taking the corresponding AP class — that if he were to land at a state university, it could mean he has already accumulated a year’s worth of college credit or more.
Even more amazingly, Grant said he has earned 5s — the top possible score — on all but one of these tests, music theory, in which he got a 4.
“He’s more than your typical teenager,” said Macy, who has been working with him to get an early start on the college-application process, even though Grant won’t be applying for college until next fall. “Particularly for a kid who’s not in these AP classes, it’s pretty exceptional.”
Described as top of his class, Grant is on pace to earn his high school diploma a year early. Following that, he’s planning on taking a “gap year” that will allow him to dabble a bit, try new things and possibly spend a semester in Beijing.
Part of that goal is that, in addition to English, Grant has learned to speak Mandarin Chinese.
“It’s a really useful language,” he said before explaining his reasons for learning it. “I’ve always been really interested in language, and I was actually in a dual-language program in sixth grade and … it just made sense. Also the Chinese teacher the first two years at Peak was one of my best friends’ moms, so I knew she would be great.”
With hopes of attending an Ivy League school after his gap year — Grant’s first choice is Columbia University — he is trying to build as impressive of a resume as he can now.
“I think college is really expensive, especially today, so anything that can make it a little bit cheaper is good for me, good for my family, good for my parents,” Grant said of his motivation for taking so many AP tests. “Also, I would really like to get into an Ivy League school, and AP tests are almost a requirement now for the Ivies. So those are probably the two main reasons.”
Grant’s mother, Megan Morgan, said she sees her son kind of like a “Renaissance man,” seeking out knowledge, even if it means that he must become self-taught. Steve Coleman, head of school at The Peak, said that, in the 17 years he’s been an educator, he’s never met another student quite like Grant.
“He is not somebody to not challenge himself,” Coleman said. “(Grant) takes on as much as he can, and to my surprise and his great credit, he does it.”
While 17 AP tests aced is astonishing in itself, Grant is also politically active, a co-captain of his school’s debate team, a member of the Knowledge Bowl team, and he plays the piano. He plays so well, in fact, that he’s written a sonata for his capstone project, a large-scale undertaking put on all seniors at The Peak School as a graduation requirement.
Grant entered part of his sonata in the Young Composers Competition and won. The piece was originally named “The Labyrinth,” but that has since been changed to “Sonata No. 1” because Grant likes how it sounds better.
Asked which of the 17 AP tests he took was the hardest, Grant said it wasn’t history or calculus, but had to be music theory.
“Half of the test is dictation and sight singing,” Grant said of scoring his only 4. “So half of the test, you actually have to sing, record it and then send it in, and they judge how well you sang, which is really hard. It’s a cappella, so there’s no accompaniment and you’re reading it off a piece of music.”
Grant said that for as long as he can remember, he’s always been a solid test-taker. In seventh grade, he applied for a scholarship through the Institute for Educational Advancement that would allow him to attend the high school of his choice tuition-free. He was awarded the scholarship in eighth grade and used it in high school.
Grant listed a couple of options he considered before he settled on The Peak, and added that he’s glad he did.
What Grant didn’t mention, but Coleman did, was that Grant also used the scholarship to enroll in an online high school offered by Stanford University and took a double load of classes his first couple years of high school. He has since transferred out of Stanford’s online courses to take classes through Colorado Mountain College.
“He’s brilliant,” Coleman said. “Grant is probably the most cerebral student in the class. He’s also extremely modest with a self-deprecating sense of humor.”
And that’s perhaps what Coleman likes most about the star pupil.
While the 17-year-old seemingly has it all — the looks, brains and immense talent — Coleman said it’s the teen’s personality that he enjoys the most.
“He talks about how lazy he is, what a couch potatoes he is, but he’s anything but that,” Coleman said, trying to explain who Grant is as a person. “It’s easy to get close to him and form a relationship, and he’s so appreciative of everything that comes his way.”
Expanding on his point, Coleman relayed a story about a recent talk in front of the Summit County Rotary Club, during which Grant opened by thanking the club members for all they’ve done for The Peak School, even though much of it never really benefited him personally.
“At Rotary, the first thing he said was how much he appreciated the grants they’ve given the school and how much of a role model they are,” Coleman recalled. “I didn’t ask him to say anything like that … He’s a great person.”
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