Very few seniors achieve a perfect ACT score of 36, and only 1% of students in Nebraska qualify as semifinalists for the National Merit Scholarship program. Samuel Dekleva accomplished both.
Dekleva follows Keegan Nitsch, a 2020 St. Patrick High School graduate, to give the school back-to-back perfect ACT scores.
Superintendent Kevin Dodson of North Platte Catholic Schools values Dekleva’s accomplishments.
“The entire North Platte Catholic School community is proud of Samuel’s achievements,” Dodson said. “Samuel has been blessed with a great curiosity to learn, a confidence to pursue his interests, and a work ethic too that allows him to be successful.”
Dekleva is involved in many activities within the school and keeps busy with academics, music and sports.
He said the process to qualify for the National Merit Scholarship program began when he was a junior.
“It starts when you take the PSAT,” the qualifying exam, Dekleva said. He took that test in October 2019.
The scale for qualifying for the National Merit program goes from 320 to 1520, Dekleva said. He scored a 1490.
“Normally the top 1% of students from every state who take the test receive a scholarship,” Dekleva said. “It is quite the honor.”
He said he did a lot of prep work for the test.
“I was prepping for the ACT at the time,” Dekleva said. “I took some of those strategies and used them for the PSAT.”
The strategies he employed were what he called “the little things.”
“It was like learning how to skim a text and pick out the important pieces of information,” Dekleva said. “For the math section, going over everything twice and doing all this double-checking stuff. It’s really important to do that in the standardized test because you might accidentally fill out the wrong oval.”
Dekleva said he gets nervous doing those kinds of tests, but also has a strategy for calming himself down.
“Honestly, prayer helps,” Dekleva said. “I’d say that I take some deep breaths — take a breath, count to four and hold the breath.”
Earning a National Merit Scholarship of any kind, Dekleva said, would be a huge honor.
“This is a very selective group anyway,” Dekleva said. “To be in the top half of a selective group would be really important, I think.”
Dekleva is an accomplished musician, performing with school groups as well as displaying his prowess in classical music on piano. He plans to include music in his college career.
“I am planning on going into a data science field, I’m not necessarily sure,” Dekleva said. “I’m thinking also about a double major with music composition, like a music performance degree.”
His perfect score on the ACT came after putting in the work to prepare for that along with the PSAT.
“I started studying for it about three to four weeks before the test,” Dekleva said. “I studied an hour or so every night up until the test.”
He said he got in about 15 hours of preparatory work for the exam and took the test July 18. Because of some glitches on the testing website, Dekleva had to wait until Aug. 10 to find out his results.
“It was a long time to wait, because I had suspicions that I got a perfect score,” Dekleva said, “but you never really know until the scores are released.”
Dekleva said it was exciting to hear the news. He said his parents, Ed and Debbie Dekleva, are very proud of his accomplishment.
He said he is stronger in some subjects than others, but pretty consistent across the board.
“Math is probably the strongest one for me,” Dekleva said. Ironically, he said, it was the last subject he had not yet “aced” until he took the test this time.
Dekleva said his time at St. Patrick has been good for his education.
“Probably the most important thing is I had to take Mrs. ‘O’s’ history class,” Dekleva said, referring to longtime teacher Diane Ostermeyer. “You’ve probably heard students say that before, but her class is very demanding and you’ve got to figure out all of the time management stuff.”
He said that discipline helped him manage his study time in preparation for the ACT and PSAT.
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