Nathan Nichols at Tallulah Gorge. Nichols, a rising senior at Riverwood International Charter School, earned a perfect ACT score. (Special)

Nathan Nichols, a rising senior at Riverwood International Charter School, has earned a perfect ACT score of 36.

According to ACT, less than 1% of students earn a top score. In the U.S. high school graduating class of 2020, only 5,579 of 1.67 million students who took the ACT scored a 36. The ACT consists of separate tests in English, mathematics, reading and science.

“Earning a top score on the ACT is a remarkable achievement,” said ACT CEO Janet Godwin. “A student’s exceptional score of 36 will provide any college or university with ample evidence of their readiness for the academic rigors that lie ahead.”

While he did take practice tests to prepare, Nichols will admit it comes naturally.

“Honestly, I’ve always been kind of a test taker,” said the 17-year-old, son of Richard and Valerie Nichols. “It’s come a bit easy to me.”

It’s quite an achievement, especially considering the challenging school year he weathered due to the pandemic. “I really let my work ethic go as a result,” he said. “I kind of lost some determination.”

Nichols said he’s interested in pursuing a career in mechanical or computer engineering. This fall, he plans to apply to schools including Georgia Tech. “I’m really excited to look into what kind of college opportunities I can have,” he said, adding math and computer science are his top subjects.

He’s also president of Riverwood’s mountain biking club and is involved with the Georgia Cycling Association, where he competes in races. Some of his favorite places to ride include the trails at Sope and Blankets creeks.

This summer, he’s working at the Springs Cinema & Taphouse in Sandy Springs.

His best advice for future ACT test takers?

“Read the question first in the science section,” Nichols said. “They describe an experiment, and then the questions show up. You want to read the questions, and then check through the experiment.”

Amy Wenk was editor of Reporter Newspapers in 2021-22.