SUMMERVILLE — Attract an illness that makes you too sick for school, bring along an entire bag of cough drops and fall into bed when the marathon exam is finished.
That's Jake Stauch's prescription for achieving a rare score of 2400 on the grueling SAT.
The Summerville High School junior accomplished the feat in late January while battling a case of bronchitis. The ambitious 16-year-old, ranked at the top of his junior class, expected to do well and thought the elusive 2400 — a score of 800 on the critical reading, math and writing sections — could be within reach.
"I wanted a perfect score, and I told myself I'd take the SAT a few different times to see how close I could get," Jake said. "But I did not think I got it on this one."
Only 269 students across the nation, and one in South Carolina, equaled Jake's triumph last year. Academic Magnet High School student Alex Romanczuk, who now attends Stanford University, earned the highest score possible on the June 2006 test.
Jake was so sick that he stayed in bed the entire day before the test, waking up only to practice a few essays in preparation for the writing section. His mother, Shari Stauch, asked if he wanted to postpone taking the exam. But Jake already had rescheduled once — he missed the December test to cheer on the Green Wave football team at the state championship game. He went into the test room feeling confident, despite the burning sensation in his throat.
"I knew I could take it again if I didn't like my score," he said. "You get more than one shot."
Jake knew SAT scores would be released last Thursday but left for school before the results were posted online. Mom wasn't willing to wait.
Shari Stauch sneaked onto her son's computer, went to the College Board's Web site and saw three 800 scores next to Jake's name. "I thought, 'Maybe this isn't the score, maybe this is just what's possible,' " she said. Jake's father, Jeff Stauch, came into the room and together they called the College Board.
The woman on the other end of the line confirmed the scores, and "we've been smiling ever since," Shari Stauch said.
Jeff Stauch said he knew his son was a good test-taker but assumed a 2400 would be nearly impossible. "In the last week, I've probably gone online two or three additional times to just look at the scores again," he said. "I see the numbers and realize how special it is."
Jake's parents then rushed to Summerville High, where they shared the good news with guidance counselor Brenda Lamas. Lamas called Jake into her office. "We handed him the printed report, and he grinned from ear to ear," Shari Stauch said.
Lamas said she's so proud that she's keeping a copy of the scores by her desk. "As a guidance counselor, you see so many heartbreaking stories," Lamas said. "And then there is something like this."
Jake took the scores back to class and handed the sheet to a friend. "His jaw dropped," he said.
Jake, who moved to Summerville in 1998 from the Chicago suburbs, is accustomed to stellar academic achievements. He's enrolled in Advanced Placement calculus, physics and U.S. history at Summerville and also is in his third year of Latin. He took the SAT as a seventh-grade student and scored 1300 out of 1600 — a score that would thrill most high-schoolers.
That score qualified him to receive an award at Duke University, and his visit to the North Carolina campus left him yearning for more. Jake plans to apply to Duke this fall for early decision and hopes to major in biology if accepted.
Although he's a fan of "Jeopardy," Jake "never was a kid who carried a protractor in his pocket," his father said. He spends most of his free afternoons at baseball practice for a traveling team that goes to tournaments on weekends. He's a black belt in karate and volunteers at Magnolia Plantation.
Summerville High teacher Connie Coyle taught Jake in Advanced Placement European history last year, where he earned the highest possible score on the spring AP test. Coyle said Jake has a "quiet intelligence" and had no need to show off in class. Unlike some smart students, he also balances academics and athletics, Coyle said. "Everything he does, he does well," she said. "He stands out, even among a class of AP students."
Jake said he won't be embarrassed if his SAT feat ends up outweighing some of his other accomplishments.
"There aren't many opportunities to be recognized just for being smart," he said.