Special to the Village News
By taking all AP classes during his final three years at Fallbrook High School – and acing each one – Marco Arias achieved a GPA of 4.4961 to claim the honor of valedictorian of the Class of 2022.
"I'm really excited about being valedictorian," he said during a recent interview at the school. "It is something I wanted since I was a freshman when I set my path."
There were plenty of difficult classes, but one of the most challenging, he said, was his freshman world history. Freshmen are not allowed to take AP classes, but the instructor made this class rough. The instructor was his namesake, Marco Arias.
"My parents are first generation college graduates because they wanted a better future," the FHS student said. "They gave me a really solid foundation. My dad's history class was rough. He was really strict with me!"
The valedictorian proudly said his mother is a principal in the elementary school district.
"My parents' encouragement was very important," he noted.
Arias said his toughest AP class was chemistry as a sophomore in a class that concluded with online sessions because of COVID-19. "I was overwhelmed because it was a really hard class," Arias admitted.
In the fall, he will be attending Massachusetts Institute of Technology, located across the Charles River from Boston.
The last couple weeks at FHS, you would frequently see him wearing a MIT sweatshirt. Arias said he selected the university because of its academic reputation.
"Their engineering department is the best," he said. "I'm leaning towards an environmental engineering degree. I was able to visit during spring break and really like how the students work together, helping better each other. They're all top students."
Arias said he envisions a future as a design engineer or product designer. As a youth, he loved Lincoln Logs and Legos. He said he could also see himself working for a company like Reebok in designing shoes.
As a high school student, he said late evenings were his favorite time for studies because he liked the quiet time. The top grades didn't come easy, he noted, saying that staying up to 1 or 2 in the morning was not uncommon.
"That's when I underestimated the time needed and had to really push myself," he explained. "Some classes are more interesting – a lot depending on the instructor but most (information) you need to know just for the class. However, more and more I've seen how the earlier classes applied to classes the last two years, especially this year. So yes, I got something out of each class."
Arias said he and Jett Leeman, whose four-year GPA was a fraction behind – 4.4961 to 4.47662 – were pretty good friends and they would sometimes help one another, sometimes with a text message late at night.
"We were competing for the GPA, but we were always willing to give a helping hand," Arias said.
Arias had a GPA of 4.0 as freshman, 4.67 as sophomore, and 5.0 as junior and senior.
Passing AP exams with a score of 3 or better can earn college credits. On the 1-5 scale, a score of 5 means the student is extremely well qualified to receive college credit for that course. A score of 4 means the student is well qualified and a score of 3 indicates that the student is qualified.
Every college sets its own policy about AP credit. Some schools only give credit for scores of 4 or 5. Arias received three scores of 3, and test scores of 4 in physics, research and U.S. history. He received a score of 5 in the AP language and calculus tests.
His PSAT score was 1340 in 10th grade and his SAT score was 1550 – 750 for reading/writing and 800 in math.
Arias was able to maintain high grades while also participating in sports. He played football as a freshman and pole vaulted as a sophomore and junior, but his primary sport was wrestling. He wrestled for four year, the last as team captain.
He also competed with the school's academic team for grades 9-11 and as a senior was on the academic decathlon team.
Arias was a personal math tutor for students in grades 6-12 and with a special needs student. He also volunteered as s virtual peer tutor in his junior and senior years for chemistry and math up to calculus.
For students approaching high school age, Arias said there is not one definition for success.
"You need to find what you want to do in life and what motivates you," he said.