Michael Parsons will collect his diploma at Bryan Station High School's 2013 commencement Friday afternoon, free from any worries about how to pay for his college education.
Michael, 18, who will be a freshman at the University of Kentucky this fall, has been awarded an Otis A. Singletary Scholarship, the university's most prestigious academic scholarship.
The scholarship, named after a former president of the university, covers the full cost of tuition, room and board, and offers a personal stipend for four years of undergraduate study and $2,000 toward summer study abroad.
"It's pretty exciting," Michael said recently. "I'm not sure what all I'll be doing next year, and that's pretty intriguing in itself. I'm really looking forward to it."
The Singletary Scholarship has become almost standard procedure in the Parsons family. Michael's brother, Stephen, received a Singletary last year when he graduated from Bryan Station. Stephen just completed his freshman year at UK.
Ann Hurt, guidance counselor at Bryan Station, said she isn't surprised that the Parsons brothers have gone two-for-two on Singletary Scholarships.
"They are very bright, excellent students, and they are totally unpretentious about it," Hurt said.
Michael and Stephen are the sons of Ray and Julie Parsons of Lexington.
The Parsons brothers have been top students since they entered school — they admit that they sometimes competed with each other to see who could rack up the best grades — but they said a number of things helped along the way.
Michael said they started taking music lessons about the time they were in fourth grade. Stephen picked the violin; Michael, wanting to be different, opted for the viola.
Both became members of the Central Kentucky Youth Orchestra.
"Music has been a pretty important part of my life," Michael said.
Both brothers said the discipline required for music helped them in the classroom.
Studying a foreign language also helped. Both boys joined the Fayette Public Schools' Spanish immersion program in kindergarten at Maxwell Elementary, and they studied Spanish all the way through high school.
"I've been studying Spanish basically my whole life," Michael said. "I think that being in the immersion program just made you more open to other ideas and cultures. All of our teachers were native speakers, and they brought different cultures to the classroom. I just kind of knew from the beginning that I would stick with it."
The brothers also found time to participate in sports in high school. Both ran cross-country at Bryan Station, although Michael sat out last fall because of shin problems.
Michael said he would like to study Spanish and international relations, but he hasn't made any career plans yet.
Stephen had planned to major in biosystems engineering, but he switched to computer science and international relations.
"Ideally, I'd like to do something in international development using computer science, like applying new technology to development," he said. "But we'll see."
As for collecting Singletary Scholarships, the brothers said they have developed no "system" for winning. But lots of hard work helps.
According to UK, a student must have a minimum score of 31 on the ACT or 1360 on the SAT, and a minimum un-weighted GPA of 3.5 on a 4.0 scale to be considered for the Singletary and other top scholarships at UK.
About 1,400 students applied for the Singletary last year; the university invited about 250 to come in for interviews, and it awarded 51 scholarships. That was a 50 percent increase over 2011.
Michael applied to nine colleges and universities, and he was accepted by eight of them. The ninth put him on its waiting list.
According to his father, Michael tells people that he "went 81/2 for nine" on college applications.
Ray Parsons said Michael was weighing his options when he received word of the Singletary Scholarship.
That provided a "compelling reason" to select UK, Ray Parsons said.
About 2,300 Lexington students will receive their high school diplomas Friday and Saturday as the Fayette County Public Schools holds its 2013 commencement exercises. Here's the schedule of graduations, all at Rupp Arena:
Friday: Bryan Station, 4 p.m.; Paul Laurence Dunbar, 7 p.m.
Saturday: Lafayette, 10 a.m.; Tates Creek, 1 p.m.; Henry Clay, 4 p.m.