Advice from the top two



Jennifer Chiu achieves the title of salutatorian for the Class of 2022. She accomplished this by avoiding a crammed schedule and instead focusing on the classes she has interest in to raise her scores.

Aayush Jain earns the honor of valedictorian for the Class of 2022. He attained this prestigious title with the encouragement of his friends and a healthy mindset about academics. (GRACE CHANG//USED WITH PERMISSION)

Year after year, the top two students of the senior class are awarded the prestigious title of either valedictorian or salutatorian. White Station is home to an exceedingly competitive academic environment which means these titles are that much harder to achieve. Even so, with each passing year, over-achieving students set the bar higher and higher, taking more rigorous courses earlier on and boosting already high GPAs [Grade Point Average] with online AP [Advanced Placement] courses. But this year’s valedictorian and salutatorian, Aayush Jain (12) and Jennifer Chiu (12) respectively, had a different approach when it came to earning the highest class ranks.

“When I was taking my classes and just going through school in general, it was just the mindset of, ‘work hard, get good grades, and then whatever happens, happens,’” Chiu said. “I didn’t know I’d be salutatorian, actually. When I found out this year, I was just like ‘Oh, that’s nice.’” 

Chiu has examined the behavior of underclassmen throughout her senior year, noting that some students tend to stress themselves out with classes they find no interest in. A common tactic these students use to boost their GPA, and directly their class rank, is loading their schedule up with as many AP classes their schedule can hold. 

“I think [class rank] is a double-edged sword because it motivates people to take more rigorous courses, but at the top it can get really competitive and sometimes the focus shifts away from real learning and more so to how many courses people can take,” Jain said. 

Both Jain and Chiu credit their peers and friends for supporting them in school and pushing them to succeed. Jain acknowledges that to a degree, this competitive environment can actually be motivational for him. 

“My friends are all competitive and high achieving, so that made me also achieve high as well and look forward to that [competitiveness],” Jain said. 

Not only did her friends encourage Chiu to do well, but her parents also provided the atmosphere to succeed. She attributes part of her achievements to the accommodating conditions that her parents have given her. 

“I think that actually having parents that aren’t so strict about my grades has been helpful,” Chiu said. “It allows me to set my own goals instead of being like ‘Oh, this is what my mom wants me to do.’”

When considering their own classes in high school, Chiu and Jain decided to choose classes that would benefit them in the long run and not just classes that would improve their GPA.

“You have a lot of energy as an underclassman and you’ll do whatever it takes,” Jain said. “But, once you get to junior and senior year, you’ll realize that you have more extracurricular commitments and you have to consider, ‘Do I really want to take this class? Will it benefit me?’”

Traditionally, the valedictorian and salutatorian are presented the opportunity to give a speech in front of their entire class at graduation. Though this task may seem daunting to some, Chiu and Jain are ready to address the senior class of 2022. 

“It’s exciting for me because it’s my graduation, this is what I’ve been working towards for the last four years. Having that opportunity is gratifying in a way because it’s a nice way to sum up your experience [and] a nice way to end off senior year,”  Chiu said. 

At the end of their four year high school journey, the school’s salutatorian and valedictorian each have one piece of advice for any underclassmen aiming for this title: “I would say not to stress too much about class rank. Don’t be so obsessive about [it]. Instead, focus on doing well on classes you’re already in. You can take a lot of classes, but if you’re not enjoying it, it might be hard on you mentally and physically,” Chiu said.

“Don’t aim for the rank, just make sure to take whatever classes you like and make sure to challenge yourself,” Jain said.