UNL surprises student with perfect ACT score with full-tuition scholarship offer

Sam Harvey receives a hug from his mom, Elisia Flaherty, after receiving a full ride scholarship offer the university presented by Executive Vice Chancellor Donde Plowman. Sam is a high school junior from Grand Island and scored a perfect ACT score. June 19, 2018. (Photo by Craig Chandler / University Communication)

A Grand Island student may have a tough decision ahead of him, but one college tried to make it easier with a full-tuition scholarship offer.

Samuel Harvey, who scored a perfect 36 on his ACT when he took it as a high school junior April 3, received a surprise offer of a four-year, full-tuition scholarship when he toured the University of Nebraska-Lincoln June 19.

Harvey will be a senior at Grand Island Senior High in fall 2018. He is one of the first students among Nebraska’s graduating class of 2019 to have achieved a perfect score on the ACT, a standardized test that measures students’ academic preparedness for college. Legislation passed in 2016 requires all Nebraska high school students to take the ACT during their junior year.

“You’re going to have a lot of options ahead of you, but we want you to know that we think the best option for you is right here at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln,” said Donde Plowman, executive vice chancellor and chief academic officer, while presenting the scholarship offer to Harvey. “We want you here.”

The Grand Island teen is the son of Elisia Flaherty and Mark Harvey and the oldest of four siblings. His mother accompanied him on his June 19 college tour. She became tearful during the surprise ceremony when the scholarship offer worth nearly $30,000 was presented to her son.

“I’m just so proud of him,” she said. “We’re just thrilled.”

Harvey is the first Grand Island Senior High student to ace the ACT since 2012.

The university is making an early scholarship offer to Harvey to demonstrate its commitment to reward, support and retain talented Nebraska students – an effort to prevent “brain drain” and keep Nebraska talent in Nebraska. As Nebraska’s flagship public research institution, it provides students the resources, faculty and technology they need to pursue their ambitions.

Harvey said he is leaning toward attending the University of Nebraska after he graduates from high school. He intends to study engineering, he said, but he also wants to participate in a high-quality band and music program. He likes Nebraska because it offers both.

“At many colleges that have good engineering programs, that make engineering a priority, the band is not a priority,” he said. “For me, college is not just school – it’s music and all the other stuff I can do.”

Nebraska is a great place to get an engineering degree, Plowman told him.

“We have a great college of engineering, we have great engineering faculty,” she said. “And many engineers I meet also like music.”

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