EVERETT — Qingyun Li aced the ACT college readiness test and started taking classes at Everett Community College.
He also goes to middle school.
What’s up with that?
Qingyun, now 12, and his sister, Ruoyun Li, 13, are among EvCC’s youngest students.
Both are taking calculus, statistics and English online at EvCC as well as a full load at Northshore Online Academy.
Qingyun achieved a top composite score of 36 on the ACT. His sister scored 35.
The admissions test measures what students learn in high school to determine academic standing.
About one-quarter of 1% of students who take the ACT score 36, ACT spokesperson Allie Ciaramella said by email.
Among the high school graduating class of 2023 across the country, 2,542 out of about 1.4 million students who took the ACT scored a 36, she said. An additional 8,694 students earned a 35. The national average composite ACT score was 19.5. Washington state fared better, with an average score of 24.5.
Qingyun and Ruoyun took the ACT test twice at proctored sites.
“We were prepared,” she said. “It was kind of easy.”
“It was easier the second time,” he said. He scored 35 on his first try in July. In September, a week before his 12th birthday, he made a 36.
“It meant they were ready for a challenge,” said their father, Zhiyun Li.
The difficult part was finding a college that would accept students their age, he said. The children are too young for programs like Running Start for high school juniors and seniors.
EvCC has a special underage admissions process for younger students. Jenny Marin, EvCC spokesperson, said a few students each year go through the process. It is not an alternative to traditional education, she said. Students still need to be enrolled in a school district or homeschool network. They pay regular tuition.
The siblings haven’t met their college classmates in person because the courses are virtual.
Their student ID card gives them access to the campus library. Ruoyun likes to read math books and tomes about atoms or the Earth.
“Fiction is not as much fun as nonfiction books,” she said.
They are competitive chums.
“Sometimes we have different solutions to a problem and we argue for a while,” Qingyun said. His sister is usually right, he conceded.
The pandemic freed up time for them to code together.
“It started as a challenge to see who was better,” Qingyun said.
At age 9, he started making YouTube online coding courses for other kids.
During the pandemic, their dad, a computer science professor, tested homework assignments for his class on Qingyun and Ruoyun.
“I let my kids see how difficult or easy it was before I sent it to my students,” Li said.
He steered the two kids to study for the ACT test last spring. Qingyun said he learned all the math topics in two months.
“They are smarter than me now,” their dad said.
Their mom is in a hybrid graduate school nursing program. Qingyun and Ruoyun have a younger brother and sister, 8 and 10, who also do online schooling and study as a pair. For recess, the four play soccer in the backyard and ride bikes.
Pairing up paid off for the older two.
“The way for me was to learn things with my sister,” Qingyun said. “I like to learn a lot of related things at the same time. Then I can make a lot of connections.”
Example: “The conic functions I learned in middle school can also be derived from calculus learned in college. Also, the vertices of a polynomial learned in middle school are simply the places where the derivatives become zero,” Qingyun wrote in a Q & A interview for an EvCC campus publication.
The siblings also used their dad’s phone to create an app for AI.
“We made a patent that used AI to tell it what you want and the camera could tell when it happened it would take a picture at that moment,” Qingyun said.
They filed a patent for the app.
Qingyun said he plans to be “an engineer to solve hard problems and improve people’s lives.” Ruoyun wants to be a scientist, engineer or teacher.
They haven’t applied for a job at Google and Google hasn’t come knocking. Yet.