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Even though he made a perfect score on the ACT college entrance exam, John Elder of Clanton, now a freshman at The University of Alabama, says he didn’t do any abnormal amounts of studying before he took the test.

“I went to some review sessions put on by my teachers and had taken the ACT before as a practice test in school,” Elder recalled. After taking the test the final time, Elder received a perfect score of 36 and started having more choices for college than he thought possible.

Elder said UA offered a well-rounded college experience that appealed to him. “UA has come a long way since I came to see the campus as a freshman in high school—and you can see where the University is going in the future,” he said. In his time in Tuscaloosa, Elder said he has found that UA tries to help students achieve their goals by challenging them academically, socially, and spiritually.

Elder was offered scholarship opportunities at numerous Ivy League schools, but he chose to come to UA. “It was something [UA President] Dr. Witt said,” the UA freshman explained. “He said that at those schools I would be around a uniform student body, but here I get an eclectic, overall atmosphere similar to the real world.”

Elder, a philosophy major and recipient of several privately-funded scholarships, is taking three honors classes, a member of the Freshman Forum and the Student Government Association. He rounds out his days with intramural sports, volunteering as a tutor for Tuscaloosa area schools, and cheering on the Crimson Tide.

Choosing UA over the Ivy Leagues doesn’t mean college is a piece of cake, Elder has found. “UA is intellectually challenging,” says the student who adds that he is definitely being academically engaged in the three honors classes he’s taking this fall.