Shaan Patel attended what he called “the worst public school district in the nation,” but went on to earn a perfect score on the SAT and a deal with billionaire Mark Cuban on television’s “Shark Tank,” in spite of less advantageous beginnings.
I asked Shaan about his extraordinary success and for his advice to high school students facing their own college preparation. Here’s what he said.
The Epoch Times: You did something very rare. You aced the SAT. As our readers pick their jaws up off the floor, tell us about the work you put into making that happen.
Shaan Patel: Earning a perfect score on the SAT does not come naturally to anyone, and it certainly did not for me. High school does not prepare you to ace standardized tests. Therefore, students must make a concerted effort outside of their high school courses to prepare for standardized exams such as the SAT and ACT.
After I took my first SAT test in high school, I only scored around average. I then spent hundreds of hours in the library studying for the SAT. I broke down every question on over 20 SAT practice exams understanding why I answered it correctly, incorrectly, and developed strategies that helped me answer questions accurately and efficiently. When I took the SAT again in my senior year of high school, I achieved a perfect SAT score—a feat achieved by only 0.02 percent of all students!
The Epoch Times: A perfect SAT score opened a lot of doors for you. Please tell us about that.
Mr. Patel: My perfect SAT score changed my life! First, it was my ticket to admission into many top universities around the country. I was accepted into the Ivy League, Johns Hopkins, Northwestern, UC Berkeley, and many other great colleges.
Second, my perfect SAT score helped me secure over $500,000 in scholarship offers from companies such as Best Buy, Lowe’s, and Coca-Cola.
Ultimately, I decided to take a full-ride scholarship to the Baccalaureate/MD combined medical program at the University of Southern California. I am so grateful I made this decision as a teenager with the guidance of my parents. I did not have to pay a dime for college tuition, housing, books, food, or any other college-related expenses, and I was also given acceptance into USC’s medical school directly from high school. This made college stress-free because I did not have to worry about paying for tuition nor did I have to worry about working tirelessly as a premed student in order to get accepted to medical school—all because of my SAT score.
The Epoch Times: For students today who are preparing for college in the midst of a pandemic, what advice would you give them to ready themselves for a test like the SAT?
Mr. Patel: Right now, you have a unique opportunity. Never before have students been less busy in high school. They don’t have extracurricular activities and sports taking up all of their time.
Instead of wasting this extra time on video games and social media, I encourage students to use this time wisely to prepare for the SAT. If you do this, you will reap immense benefits when it comes to college acceptances and scholarship awards. Work hard now, and it will pay off later.
The Epoch Times: There has been chatter about some universities no longer requiring standardized test scores or weighing them as heavily in the admissions process. Do you feel the importance of the SAT (and other such tests) is diminishing?
Mr. Patel: Although many colleges are going test-optional for admissions, they are not test-optional for scholarships. Scholarships are often very competitive to earn. Therefore, many scholarship committees still use SAT and ACT test scores as a major deciding factor to determine which students to award millions of dollars in scholarships.
With college tuition skyrocketing and student debt nearing $2 trillion, I believe paying for college is even more important than getting into college. My test scores allowed me to go to college debt-free, which is why I firmly believe students should study for standardized tests to win scholarships and reduce their cost of college.
The Epoch Times: You now hold two graduate degrees, you’ve been on “Shark Tank,” and you’re running a successful company: PrepExpert. What has been the greatest lesson you’ve learned along this extraordinary journey?
Mr. Patel: Failure is the necessary evil of success. Although it may look like I have had nothing but success after success, there have been many failures and rejections along the way. I have been rejected from many top universities, didn’t win many scholarships I applied for, and failed at launching other startups. However, having the resiliency to bounce back from failures is the true secret to success. As Winston Churchill said, “Success is walking from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.”
The Epoch Times: If you could offer high school students only one piece of advice, what would it be?
Mr. Patel: There will be two types of high school students who come out of this pandemic. The first are the high school students who wasted all of this extra time in quarantine on video games, social media, and streaming television.
The second are the high school students who buckled down, created a study schedule, and disciplined themselves to study for standardized tests in order to ace them. If you are the latter, the rewards you will get in terms of college and scholarships are boundless.