Do you want to do better in school? How would you like to ace your college entrance exams? Well, then work on your sense of humor and on having fun. That’s what Michael Haycock, a priest in the Lima Ward, Toledo Ohio Stake, says. And Michael knows something about taking tests and doing well in school. As a sophomore in 2004, Michael aced both standardized college entrance exams; he scored a perfect 36 on the ACT and a 1570 on the SAT (just 30 points away from a perfect 1600). He ranks at the top of his class with a 4.17 grade point average. He also says to “Learn to love to learn.”
“With a zany sense of humor, you can have fun with everything from verbs to imaginary numbers,” says Michael. That’s easy for him to say. Maybe it’s just because he’s so smart that things come so easily. After all, he is one of only two sophomores in the entire nation to get a 36 on the ACT out of about 218,000 students. He is the final winner of the Ohio University–sponsored U.S. history contest, in which he competed with 7,400 other entrants for a full-tuition, four-year scholarship. He is the star on the high school quiz bowl team. And he still makes it to early-morning seminary every day.
That’s why it’s so surprising to hear this bit of advice from Michael: “Don’t feel you’re a failure due to others’ successes. I feel this quite a bit. It’s a weakness of mine.” Michael explains that when he hears about the latest 12-year-old neurosurgeon, or the college-attending 13-year-old Nobel Peace Prize nominee, he thinks he should have done just a little more or a little better. “Everyone can do at least one thing another cannot,” Michael adds. “Every child of God is truly unique.”
So what makes Michael Haycock unique? There are lots of things. He certainly doesn’t fit the standard mold of the “brainiac.” When asked if others ever bother him for being a good student, Michael says that has happened on occasion, “but that’s only been at the beginning. When they get to know me they stop.” He plays the trombone in the marching band and the symphonic band. He sings in the school choir and even auditioned for and made it into the all-state choir. He runs cross-country. “My best time for the 5K is 20 minutes, 10 seconds,” Michael says, “which is not spectacular, but it’s not bad either.” This year he improved his time; it’s now 19 minutes, 32 seconds. But what really makes Michael stand out among his peers is that he’s a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“We have more LDS students in our school than in any other school in the county.” That number translates into nine members of the Church in his high school. Michael says he doesn’t get a chance to interact with them much outside of early-morning seminary, because they don’t have classes together. In fact, even at church, Michael is in a quorum of only four boys, and each of them lives in a different school district. “I can’t say if it’s hard or easy, because I don’t have anything to compare it to,” Michael says.
So Michael’s group of friends is quite diverse. “We have a Baptist, a Lutheran, a Methodist, and Catholics,” he says. What brings them together is years of friendship and similar interests. They all like learning and science fiction and fantasy. Having many friends of other faiths gives Michael a chance to let them know about his beliefs. “We sometimes have religious discussions—pretty much compare beliefs. I’ve gone to my friend’s church recently for Palm Sunday, and she came to general conference with me.”
When he has the chance, Michael likes to get together with other LDS youth. Like when he sang in the choir for the dedication of Church history sites in historic Kirtland. He talks warmly about the three- to four-hour drives to Kirtland for practices. But he remembers most the wonderful experience of the dedication and the fireside the night before where he saw President Gordon B. Hinckley and other General Authorities speak.
“We see these people in general conference. But this was live. And at the end of the dedication everyone got up and spontaneously sang ‘We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet,’” Michael remembers (Hymns, no. 19). “It was surreal almost. It was an amazing feeling throughout the whole dedication. It was neat.”
Living close to some of the Church history sites has helped Michael’s testimony grow stronger. He’s gained respect and admiration for what the early Saints accomplished. He’s had the chance to attend four temple dedications. And he’s come to feel a connection with the Prophet Joseph Smith. “One thing I know is that the Book of Mormon is true,” says Michael. “I’m reading it through my second time. There’s just no way one person could have put down all the wisdom on paper that is in those pages. There’s no way.”
What does the future hold for Michael Haycock? Service. “I’m preparing for college the best I can by taking AP [advanced placement] classes,” says Michael. “After that I’m going to head off to college for a year and then go on a mission. I’ll come back and finish up school.” He says he’s pretty sure he’ll pursue more degrees than just a bachelor’s. Michael has thought about becoming a Spanish professor, but right now he is planning on going into political science, with the hopes of getting into politics. He wants to make a difference in the world.
Michael doesn’t see himself as smarter than everyone else. But sometimes that’s how others look at him. “They see the stereotype of the smart kid, but I try to break that stereotype,” says Michael. And he’s done it. Michael Haycock is not just another smart kid; he’s a smart kid with a strong testimony of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.
Here are 10 tips Michael says he uses to do his best when studying, preparing for, and taking a test.
Attend class every day and pay attention.
Have a good sense of humor so you can have fun learning.
Develop a good relationship with your teachers.
Do all your assignments, and do them on time.
Ask questions about things you don’t understand.
Review your study material with friends.
Do all review assignments.
Define your own academic identity: don’t let yourself be labeled.
Check your answers on quizzes and tests at least once—twice if you have time.
Learn to love to learn.