Oakland's Max Caraballo, 18, takes a shot at earning a free ride to the college of his choice in the new reality show, "The Scholar."
The series has 10 high school seniors who might not otherwise be able to afford to attend the college of their choice competing for a $240,000 scholarship.
Each week, Max and the other nine take a timed, written exam. Those with the two highest scores put their leadership skills to the test by choosing teams and guiding their groups through a series of math and physics challenges.
Three judges, including Marquesa Lawrence from the University of California, Berkeley, and Shawn Abbott and Peter Johnson from Columbia University, evaluate every move for leadership qualities.
Finally, three of the contestants are chosen by the judges to face off in a sudden death oral exam for a separate, $50,000 cash award which they can apply toward their college fund. Winning this exam also qualifies them for a spot in the finals and a chance at the grand prize of $240,000.
Max, a graduate of Lionel Wilson Prep Academy in Oakland, was one of the contestants sharing a home during the two weeks of filming on the Los Angeles campus of the University of Southern California.
"My principal sent me an application (for the show), and I filled it out pretty last minute," says Max during a phone interview. "I wasn't really thinking I'd get picked for it."
Although the series comes from the same producers who did "Real World," Max says there were no hot tubs in sight.
"We weren't lucky enough to have a hot tub at our place," says Max with a laugh. "But this show really hits all angles of a teenager's life. Not only were we confronted with rigorous academic challenges, but also social challenges as well. But we had a good time."
Max says a lot of the kids took it more seriously than they should have.
"Winning a full-ride scholarship isn't life or death. It will better your life, but it's not something to stress over," Max says. "Life goes on, and you can always get scholarships to get you through school."