High school is considered an important time in anyone\u2019s life. Striking a balance between fun and academics is a tough trick to pull off. Wilton High School senior Eric Noonan is a prime example of that mix. Eric has been named as a candidate in the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program. Established in 1964, the program recognizes the most distinguished graduating high school seniors. According to its website, students who have scored well on the SAT or ACT are qualified to enter. \u201cI had never heard about it until about a week and a half ago,\u201d said Eric. \u201cOut of 3.4 million graduating seniors, they select 3,000. That\u2019s where I am now.\u201d Those students who have been selected must write a personal statement that introduces them to the selecting committee. Those written messages allow the students to discuss their interests, hobbies, and anything they hope will persuade the panel to bring them to Washington, D.C., as one of the 141 scholars. One male and one female student from each state will be selected. The last winner from Wilton was Sarah Gustafson, who won in 2010. Eric\u2019s approach is a unique one, in that he puts fun in at high priority. \u201cI think what separates me from many of the other contestants is that I am definitely able to balance my social life and having fun with academics,\u201d he said. \u201cAlthough I don\u2019t have the 4.0 GPA that I\u2019m sure many of these kids have, I was able to have fun these last three years. I wasn\u2019t locked in my room.\u201d Good grades come pretty naturally to him, but he admits he could have had even higher grades. \u201cI found that I don\u2019t really have to study, to be honest,\u201d he said. \u201cI don\u2019t really regret any lack of focus. It was worth it to me in the end. I got into the school I wanted to.\u201d Eric will attend Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn. With 6,500 undergraduate students, he feels it is the right fit for him. It was also the first school he visited. However, he plans to take a year off and head to Chile as part of the Rotary exchange program. His sister, Danielle, now attending Lafayette College, also participated in the exchange, in Brazil. His parents, Donald Noonan and Faye Kim, encouraged him to go to Chile. A third child, Andrew, is in seventh grade. \u201cI hope to come back with a few things, including learning Spanish,\u201d he said. \u201cI want to mature a bit before college. I think if I take this time off now, I will go into college with a clear mind. A bit more focused.\u201d Eric says he isn\u2019t concerned with losing track of his priorities while south of the border. The exchange program, which will have him living with host families, will require him to attend high school. Then he will return to the United States ready for college. \u201cI\u2019m looking forward to meeting people in Chile and at Vanderbilt,\u201d he added. \u201cI want to meet people that are balanced.\u201d Back in Wilton, Eric is a member of the high school lacrosse team. \u201cSports have been a big part of my life, which is probably different than many of the other people who have been nominated for this,\u201d he said. \u201cI\u2019m big into lacrosse and hope to be good this year.\u201d As he begins to look back on his high school career, Eric advises future students to not necessarily follow his formula. \u201cI regret not applying myself freshman and sophomore year,\u201d he said. \u201cI had to work harder in my junior year as a result. I suggest avoiding procrastination.\u201d Following college, Eric said, he is eyeing a career in engineering. For more on the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program, visit www2.ed.gov\/programs\/psp\/index.html.