“I checked for like a week after, thinking it would go down for some reason,” the 17-year-old student said.
The Etowah senior earned a perfect 36 in his second time taking the test. After discovering Thursday he posted a 2310 on his SAT, he’s positioned to attend almost any college of his choice.
“I didn’t expect it at all,” Morgan said.
After earning a 33 during his first try, Morgan said he was still shocked to get the top score. Only about 700 of the 1.6 million high school seniors who take the ACT annually earn a perfect score, according to the testing company.
“I never specifically studied for the ACT,” he said. “I think my dad bought a book, but I never looked at it.”
But teacher Dr. Michelle Barthlow said her former student works extremely hard and is humble about his achievements.
“Duncan is unusual in that not only is he unusually bright, (but also) he never, never is satisfied to be willing to rely on just his intellectual abilities,” Barthlow said.
Barthlow, Morgan’s AP Chemistry teacher during his junior year, said she’s never seen him waste time in class.
“He works at being the very best student that he can,” she said. “Many bright students can get through high school without pushing themselves. He is completely internally motivated to absolutely maximize the opportunities presented before him.”
Son of Susan and Dale Morgan of Woodstock, Morgan said his parents were surprised and “very proud.” The Cherokee County native said he’d like to study engineering and might add another major in computer science.
“This is the first year I’ve taken computer science and I like it,” Morgan said. “That’s what my dad does, he’s a computer programmer and that’s actually what (my twin brother) Dylan wants to study.
On top of the two majors, Morgan said he’s considering continuing to study the piano, which he’s played for the last 10 years.
“I don’t know if I’ll have time, but I enjoy playing it,” he said.
Described as close but competitive with one another, Morgan said he and his brother do not want to attend the same college.
“He’s different from me, but I’d say he’s as smart as I am,” Morgan said. “We don’t even look alike.”
Morgan, who also serves as the captain of Etowah’s academic team, said he hopes to attend Vanderbilt University, but is also applying to other schools including Princeton University, Georgia Institute of Technology, University of North Carolina and Johns Hopkins University.
He chose Vanderbilt as his top pick after a visit last summer.
“I knew it was a high-profile, strong school,” he said. “With this ACT score, I think I’ll be able to get some scholarship money.”
The school also has a strong engineering program and is relatively close to home, Morgan said.
Etowah Principal Keith Ball said more students are taking the ACT than in years past because they realize many universities take both the SAT and ACT into consideration. The old notion that the SAT is always the best choice is no longer the case, as the ACT and SAT are both accepted at all of Georgia’s public colleges and universities.
“I think our students have become more educated on what schools want,” Ball said.
As for which test Etowah students decide to take, Ball said he encourages them to work with their counselors to determine which test, if not both, is a good option.
While the ACT is a curriculum-based achievement test, the SAT is a predictor test of knowledge and preparedness.
Sixty percent of district students take the SAT, but the percentage of students taking the ACT has increased over the last year. About 50 percent of CCSD’s class of 2011 took the ACT, and 51 percent of the CCSD class of 2012 took the test. The district’s average ACT score is 22.7.
The ACT includes four separate exams in English, reading, mathematics and science, with an optional writing portion. The SAT measures critical reading, mathematics and writing abilities.
Morgan said he thought it would be best to take a couple of tries at both.
“They say the tests are different and some people do better at one or the other so I figured I might as well just try both,” Morgan said.
Moving forward, Morgan said his goals for his senior year are to do well on his Advanced Placement tests.
“I’ve never made anything but fives on AP tests and I want to keep that up, but I’ve only taken five before. I’m taking six this year,” Morgan said.
Morgan will be recognized by the Cherokee County School Board and superintendent at the Nov. 1 school board meeting, which begins at 7 p.m. at the Historic Canton High School/School Board Auditorium.
He also was recognized at the Oct. 18 school board meeting for being named a National Merit Semi-Finalist for his outstanding score on the Practice SAT.