Watkins Memorial Principal Ben Richards said National Merit Scholarship Program semifinalist Brady Etz never longs for the spotlight, even when he deserves it.
"He's really kind of a humble kid," Richards said. "I think he's a fantastic young man."
Richards said Etz, a Watkins Memorial High School senior, didn't brag about being chosen as a National Merit semifinalist or another recent achievement, a perfect score of 36 on the ACT -- an accomplishment Richards said he learned about secondhand.
"I believe the statistic is that less than one-tenth of 1 percent earns that score," Richards said. "Typically, that would be all over Facebook."
Etz said he achieved that score by looking over previous tests and figuring out where he needed the most work. He said he focused on the English and grammar section, in particular.
Richards said this pattern of success is typical for Etz, who regularly earns top grades.
"It's not like he took this one test and did really well," Richards said. "He's a really good student."
Etz was one of about 1.5 million juniors in more than 22,000 high schools who entered the 2014 National Merit Scholarship Program after taking the 2012 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test, which served as an initial screen of program entrants.
The National Merit Scholarship Corp. names approximately 16,000 semifinalists in the scholarship competition. The nationwide pool of semifinalists, representing less than 1 percent of U.S. high school seniors, includes the highest-scoring entrants in each state.
The semifinalists can continue in the competition for about 8,000 scholarships worth $35 million.
The scholarship finalists, who will be announced next spring, will be chosen based on their "skills, accomplishments and potential for success in rigorous college studies," according to the National Merit Scholarship Corp.
Students competing to become finalists must submit a detailed scholarship application, be endorsed and recommended by a high school official, write an essay and earn SAT scores that confirm the student's earlier performance on the PSAT, according to the organization.
"I've already written my essay," Etz said.
He said the essay is about his experiences climbing Mount Shuksan in Washington's North Cascades National Park and how that challenge relates to the rest of his life.
Following his graduation from Watkins Memorial next spring, Etz said, he is considering Brown University or Northwestern University. He plans to study chemical engineering in college.