Part of a medal that the U.S. Presidential Scholars receive. Image from The Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Manan Bajaj is a current senior attending Pioneer Charter School of Science. He was selected as a candidate in the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program. The program was created in 1964 and is designed to recognize and honor the most notable high school seniors in the nation. Students who are selected as a candidate for this title either show outstanding academic performance or display an impressive talent in performing arts. Every year up to 161 students nationwide are named as Presidential Scholars.

In order for students to even apply as candidates for this title they must receive an invitation and meet a certain set of requirements. Students’ invitations are based off of SAT and ACT scores and they must be U.S. citizens and set to graduate between January to August 2019.

The students chosen as Presidential Scholars will receive an expense-paid trip to Washington D.C. in June to attend a ceremony where they will be awarded with the U.S. Presidential Scholar medallion. During their trip, they will have access to important national and international figures such as government officials, educators, authors, scientists and more.

After high school Bajaj plans “to study engineering or computer science, likely at Rice University, and then pursuing a career in those fields.” If Bajaj receives this title, he explained that “it may help [him] join certain honor societies, earn leadership positions, or obtain internships in college.” He further explains that these aspects could heavily contribute to him “having a more complete education and being more sure of whichever career path [he chooses].”

Bajaj had scored a perfect score of 1600 on his SAT, which contributed to his selection as candidate for this title, but he explained that it came with lots of practice. He expressed that “[he] found that the English section came relatively naturally because [he] used to read a lot as a child,” adding that “simply reading a lot [made] it easier to understand what is on the passages in the test.” However, for Bajaj, the math section was more challenging. He stated that “[he] did lots of official practice tests to remind [himself] of old concepts.”

Bajaj expressed that “being aware of [his] priorities and being engaged, [...] has helped [him] get to where [he is] now.” Bajaj believes that he is not necessarily the most hardworking or always passionate and driven, “but [he] would say [that he is] able to identify which things are legitimately important and worth setting aside some time for.”

When it comes to schoolwork, Bajaj tries to take everything seriously, even if it is a minor assignment, “just so that [he can] get used to doing important tasks to the best of [his] ability.”

Bajaj will be finding out whether he is a semifinalist in mid-April, and in early May he will find out whether or not he is named one of the President Scholars.

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