One-percenter: Home-schooled Marco Island student aces the ACT

Lance Shearer
Ulysses Bunten with dad William in his "electronic projects corner." Ulysses, a home-schooled student, scored a perfect score on the ACT college entrance exam.

“Anyone who is willing to put in the time and effort” can achieve a score of 36 on the ACT college entrance exam," said Ulysses Bunten. Don’t believe him. Only one-tenth of one percent of students who take the test – and for the 2017 school year, that was over two million high school seniors – achieve a 36, the highest possible score.

And Ulysses did it as a home-schooled student. He lives on Marco Island with his parents William and Elizabeth Bunten, as well as a sister who they were putting on a flight back to frigid Boston earlier this week. She attends Olin College of Engineering in Needham, Mass., and that is the school on which Ulysses has set his sights.

“I want to go into electrical or computer engineering, artificial intelligence, machine learning,” he said, sitting at the dining room table with mom and dad. Clearly, they were proud parents, but laughed when asked if they helped Ulysses with his homework.

“Elizabeth and I took Calc. 1 about 107 years ago,” said William Bunten. He and Elizabeth met in architecture school.

“I’m starting Calc. 3 and Physics 2 this week,” said Ulysses. While he is home-schooled, and a high school senior, he is double-enrolled at Florida Southwestern State College, and will also be tutoring other students in calculus at the FSW tutoring center this semester.

Ulysses Bunten of Marco Island in his "electronic projects corner." Ulysses, a home-schooled student, scored a perfect score on the ACT college entrance exam.

While he used to do his academic work in his bedroom at home, said Ulysses, “I’ve been pretty much living at the tutoring center” this school year. He does have an “electronic projects corner” in the living room of the waterfront family home, where he and his dad “geek out” on computer-related projects, with chairs side by side.

Ulysses is heavily into computer coding. “I did a book in C,” a computer language, he said, studied Java in middle school, and has also worked in Pro*C, Python and PHP. If you’re not sure what all of those signify, join the rest of us.

This past year, Ulysses took up chess, and was just coming from the Marco Island chess club run by Wade Keller before speaking to a reporter.

But he also gets involved in “right brain” activities, and was “Mr. Three Sports,” in his dad’s phrase, before a serious knee malady limited his athletic activity. Ulysses participated in track and cross country with the Lely High team, concentrating on pole vaulting before getting a total knee reconstruction.

Ulysses Bunten with dad William and mom Elizabeth at home on Marco Island. Ulysses, a home-schooled student, scored a perfect score on the ACT college entrance exam.

His recovery went well; “I dance almost every day,” said Ulysses. “I have a lot of fun with it. I was offered a job as a dance instructor.”

He prefers hip hop and street dancing, which includes popping, animation, and “botting,” where one moves in a robotic manner – so maybe there is a tie back to the computer science/AI focus of his academic work.

According to their news release, the ACT consists of tests in English, mathematics, reading and science, each scored on a scale of 1–36. A student's composite score is the average of the four test scores. In a letter to Ulysses, and presumably other perfect score attainers, ACT Chief Executive Officer Marten Roorda stated, “Your achievement on the ACT is significant and rare. While test scores are just one of multiple criteria that most colleges consider when making admission decisions, your exceptional ACT composite score should prove helpful as you pursue your education and career goals.”

Ulysses Bunten of Marco Island, a home-schooled student, scored a perfect score on the ACT college entrance exam.

The ACT is a curriculum-based achievement exam that measures what students have learned in school. Students who earn a 36 composite score have likely mastered all of the skills and knowledge they will need to succeed in first-year college courses in the core subject areas. ACT scores are accepted by all major four-year colleges and universities across the U.S.

Ulysses was “up in the air” about taking the ACT versus the SAT, said William Bunten. “The SAT kept changing, so the prep books weren’t necessarily up to date. The ACT seemed to be the test most competitive schools were looking for.”