Corona del Sol High School senior Vinayak Muralidhar has compiled an impressive résumé in his 16 years that suggests a busy life of all work and no play.
He skipped fourth grade, earned a black belt in karate, attended a summer research fellowship at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and scored in the top one percent on the SAT college entrance exam.
Later this spring, he will graduate as co-valedictorian from his Tempe school. And he squeezes in classes at Arizona State University and conducts computer research under the guidance of a faculty mentor.
But his friends know something else about Muralidhar: He’s a party animal.
“He’s a good dancer,” said Neha Giridharan, a friend from Chandler High School. “He shimmies real well.”
And Giridharan knows dancing. She performed a dance from India during the state Junior Miss scholarship pageant on March 11 and finished as the overall winner.
Even Muralidhar’s 15-yearold sister, Anjali, said her brother is a lot of fun.
So how does Muralidhar fit everything into his schedule? Corona del Sol junior Ashwin Gulati had one idea.
“He can go late nights without sleep,” Gulati said. “He always finds time to have fun.”
Muralidhar, one of four students the Tribune has followed this year to see what it takes to gain admission at a top-tier college, insists friendships are more important than anything on his résumé. “The things that matters the most are the relationships you have with other people,” he said.
Muralidhar admits he will be tempted to spend more time with those friends as his high school career winds down. But he vowed to stay the course.
Regardless, he said teachers are sympathetic and give less homework in the weeks before graduation.
“The teachers are really nice,” he said. “They know it’s our last semester.”
ALEX BLUM DESERT MOUNTAIN HIGH SCHOOL — SCOTTSDALE
Alex Blum hates to waste time.
The Scottsdale scholar recently caught himself watching too much television after school, so he joined the varsity track team. He also keeps himself busy with college-level classes, a parttime job and a volunteer position at a hospital.
But Blum, 17, also sets aside time for friends. “I’ve always been able to balance my time with friends and school,” he said.
On a recent weekend, for example, he did homework on Friday night and watched Harry Potter at a friend’s house. On Saturday, he went with friends to the Clubhouse in Tempe. Sunday was all homework and early to bed.
Blum also decided to pack spring break this week with adventure. Rejecting party hot spots such as Puerto Peñasco, Mexico, — popularly known as Rocky Point — he left on Saturday for a service and educational school trip to Costa Rica. “I thought, how many times am I going to get to go to Costa Rica in my life?,” he said.
LESLIE SHEN MESQUITE HIGH SCHOOL — GILBERT
Leslie Shen took things easy during spring break — at least compared to her normal pace. She finished scholarship applications, prepared for her Model United Nations club conferences, studied for Advanced Placement tests in May and, of course, performed community service.
“I just want to use this spring break to relax a little bit,” she said last week. “But I’m still doing work.”
Since she handed in her 12 college applications in December, Shen said school has grown less hectic. She is doing more pleasure reading, finishing a painting and spending more time with friends. She said the college application process taught her to value those relationships.
“The first thing I’ve learned is how much I’ve grown from a little girl,” she said. “How different people, different events, unexpected coincidences have changed me, and especially how the people around me have affected me and influenced me.”
Jackie Leatherman, (480) 898-5632
JESSICA GUO DOBSON HIGH SCHOOL — MESA
The final semester of high school is supposed to be easy, but Jessica Guo hasn’t noticed.
“Every weekend is booked up from here to graduation,” she said. “But in a good way.”
She’s going to California with the Dobson High orchestra and to Washington, D.C., with her state champion We the People team. And she’s filling out scholarship applications for top-tier colleges and preparing for Advanced Placement exams.
“The AP frenzy is just starting,” she said. “I turned in my money and am taking four this year.”
But she will still take time to enjoy friendships and social events such as prom. The formal dance falls on April 1 at Dobson this year — the same day Guo expects to hear from several out-of-state college admissions departments.
Jennifer Pinner, (480) 898-5640