For many of the students at MC, we take our first AP class in sophomore year, and probably start with APEC. However, for an elite group of students, including Tytan Le Nguyen and Michelle Zhang, their AP journey started years before.
Freshman Tytan Le Nguyen took AP Calculus BC in fifth grade and AP Calculus AB in sixth grade, through online courses from John Hopkins University.
“I took a test for signing up for classes on John Hopkins and I passed,” Nguyen said. “My dad thought that I could take a challenge because I took Pre-Calc when I was in fourth grade so he thought that I could take Calc in fifth grade. It [the decision] was mostly my idea.”
Calculus, a subject that leaves many upperclassmen in tears and anxiety, was easily accomplished by Nguyen in elementary school. Then, Nguyen took AP Physics B in seventh grade by coming up to MC from Black Mountain Middle School, and is currently taking AP Physics C E/M as a freshman. As a middle-schooler in a high school class, Nguyen was not intimidated.
“I was able to meet many juniors [and] seniors, and they were surprised as usual to find out my grade” Nguyen said.
Junior Michelle Zhang took AP Calculus AB and AP Chemistry in her freshman year.
“I wanted to skip Pre-Calc since I heard it was the same thing as Algebra 3-4, and then I took AP Chem because it was just like, why not?”, Zhang said. “It was my decision to take Calculus AB and for Chemistry, it was open as a course because they didn’t have enough people in it.”
The biggest problem Zhang faced as a freshman was adjusting to the course material, since it was a lot different from middle school. Zhang also has a twin brother, junior Kevin Zhang, who also took those two APs as a freshman.
“I kind of admit that he [Kevin] is intellectually superior to me so it’s not as much pressure and he gives me a lot of help,” Zhang said.
Last year, Nguyen decided to skip eighth grade, and directly jump from seventh grade to high school, where his favorite thing is the plethora of clubs.
“I talked to my dad and he said that I was mature enough in order to skip eighth grade,” Nguyen said. “I kind of have to agree, because I’m different from eighth graders who cannot keep up with the challenge.”
Nguyen still keeps in contact with his eighth grade friends by going down to Black Mountain Middle School on Thursday tutorial periods. With an affinity for math and science, Nguyen hopes to be an engineer someday, and attend either Cal Tech or MIT. Outside of academics, Nguyen has many extra-curriculars and interests.
“I do tae kwon do on Mondays Wednesdays, and Fridays,” Nguyen said. “I do robotics, I’m part of Friendship Club, Math Club, Chemistry Club to some extent, Quiz Bowl, I recently joined AL [Academic League], and I like to read.”
While some might assume that their parents pushed them to take advanced courses at an early age, this is not the case for Zhang and Nguyen, who both find that science and math come more easily to them than the humanities.
“[For] Science and math, the answers are more cut-and-dry, rather than English, and there are also more AP classes available in science and math then in English,” Zhang said.
Both Nguyen and Zhang are not concerned about running out of classes to take, despite their fast-paced intake of APs. Nguyen is taking abstract math, which deals with using proofs to construct logical arguments in order to verify mathematical statements, on Johns Hopkins, and Zhang is currently taking AP Statistics.
“There’s always programs at colleges to take over the summer or like at Westview,” Zhang said. “[For next year] I’m thinking of the multivariable calculus course at the Westview program.”
While Nguyen does not mind the fact that people are constantly surprised regarding his academic record, it is important to realize that advanced students are still regular people, even though many may tend to classify them as abnormal geniuses. Despite their major accomplishments, both remain humble.
“The only difference is that I’m taking higher classes,” Nguyen said. “Otherwise, I’m just a normal high schooler.”