One girl is the eighth of nine daughters, the captain of a French-language scrabble team, and a clerk at the Capitol during summer vacation.

Another goes to Bible study classes most Saturday nights. She said she can recite most of Shakespeare's "Hamlet" - backward.

One boy is taking second-year college calculus while still in high school. He said he reads "about 19" different newspapers and magazines each month.

Another plays chess and teaches vacation Bible school. He said his mother recalls that he learned how to read before he was 3, and took him out of D.C. public schools when his kindergarten teacher said they had nothing to challenge him.

All of them now are presidential Scholars - named last week as the brightest of this year's high school seniors.

Throughout the country 121 students were picked for the honor after a nationwide search by a presidential commission that started with test scores for about 2 million students.

The seven winners in the Washington area include three from private schools in the District - Michael Froomkin and Hilary Nelson, both from Sidwell Friends, and Bryan Fortson, from Georgetown Day. Three are from Montgomery County public schools - Linda Falcao, from Einstein High in Kensington; Maury Peiperl, from Northwood High in Silver Spring; and Daniel Smith, from Whitman High in Bethesda. One, Karen Lee-Thorp, is from a Fairfax County public school, Langley High in McLean.

Although it carries no money, - winners received a bronze medallion presented by President Carter in a White House ceremony - the award probably is the most impressive prize that a bright high school senior can win.

"It's a nice thing to get. Sure it is," Froomkin said last week after he received a mailgram from President Carter, announcing that he had won the award. "But I don't feel so exceptional," he added. "I really don't."

Yet he and all the other winners really are exceptional. Besides having some of the highest College Board scores in the country, all of them have a long list of other honors and accomplishments.

In the Washington area many of them have been in the same activities before - high school math teams, student council associations, special summer scholarship programs, and a television quiz show, "It's Academic."

In interviews and essays many of them also have a common outlook - strongly religious and unashamedly patriotic.

Indeed, five of the seven - Falcao, Fortson, Lee-Thorp, Nelson and Smith - said they take part regularly in church activities.

Falcao, a Catholic who said she attends mass regularly, said the only political activity she has ever taken part in is an antiabortion demonstration at the U.S. Capitol last January.

"My personal conviction is that abortion is the taking of a life," she said, "I feel very strongly about it."

Lee-Thorp, an Episcopalian, said she attends Bible study classes almost every Saturday night. An essay she submitted to the Presidential Scholar Commission stresses her religious beliefs and also has a strong element of patriotism.

"In my commitment to God." she wrote, "my purpose in the world is to serve my people, fostering excellence by my life's example . . . Most of all, I must be conscious of my Americanness wherever I am, realistically, not ethnocentrically.

"The students' attitudes now about religion and many other things are completely different than they used to be," said John M. Stalnaker, former president of the National Merit Scholarship Corp. who has played a major role in picking the Presidential Scholars since the program was started by President Lyndon Johnson in 1964.

"We would never say that these students are the very best in the country," he continued. "That's an utter impossibility to know. But these are an extremely high quality group of people, and they're certainly typical of high quality students in general. The change in attitude away from the tremendous hostility and protests (of the late 1960s) has been enormous."

Stalnaker said the basic format of the program has remained unchanged since Johnson started it. One boy and one girl are chosen from each state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and Americans living abroad, and 15 are chosen at large.

William Pressly, chairman of the 26-member commission, said the initial screening is done by the Educational Testing Service. He said ETS prepares a list of five top-scoring boys and five top-scoring girls in each state on the Scholastic Aptitude Test of the College Entrance Examination Board and the ACT assessment, a similar test given by the American College Testing Service.

To add more diversity, he said, about 70 black, Hispanic and other minority group students are added to the pool, whose test scores are not quite as high as the others but are the highest for their group nationwide.

Altogether about 600 students are asked to fill out application forms, Pressly said, and to write essays.

Almost all do so, he said, and then a screening committee cuts the group down to two boys and two girls from each state based on the quality of the essays, teachers' recommendations, and evidence that a student has leadership ability and a wide range of interests.

The full commission got together in Princeton, N.J., for three days in early April. First, the top boy and top girl in each state were picked, Pressly said. Then the 15 at-large winners are chosen. In some cases, he said, these are minority group students. Others are added, he said, because in some states two candidates seem just about equally qualified.

"All of the finalists are so magnificent," Pressly said, "that it's difficult to distinguish between them. We're impressed at how good all of them are."

He said many of the minority group students are chosen in the first round of state-by-state selections, not at-large. But he said the at-large group was necessary because "we want to be open to all people."

All the winners from the Washington area speak highly of their schools - both public and private, although Flacao, who is the eighth of nine daughters in her family, said she stated at Sidwell Friends in seventh grade after parents could afford it. She said her father is a Portuguese interpreter for the U.S. State Department.

Nelson said she stated at Sidwell Friends in seventh grade after attending John Eaton, a public elementary school in the Cleveland Park section of Northwest Washington. She said she made the switch primarily because she is a Quaker.

"At John Eaton we had an open classroom," she added "and we learned a lot about other people rather than academic work. I'm glad I went there. But when I came to Sidwell I had to try very, very hard at first just to get used to the workload."

She said she still does about five hours of homework most nights.

Froomkin, who started at Sidwell in first grade after his family moved to Washington, said he had "always had the funny feeling that there's something wrong in not supporting public education."

"But when I see the benefits I get from being here (including some classes of fewer than 10, and second-year college calculus), I can't justify going to public school," he continued. "Perhaps I have an obligation to pay back some day, but I can't see hobbling myself now."

Fortson, the only black in the local group of Presidential Scholars, has no second thoughts about going to private school.

"I was taken out of public school at the advice of my kindergarten teacher," he said. "She said it didn't have much to offer me, so my parents put me here (Georgetown Day). It's been great."

Next fall, Forston said, he is going to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to study engineering with Scholastic Aptitude Test scores of 770 in mathematics and 750 in verbal (out of a possible 800).

Becoming a Presidential Scholar is just the latest in a long string of honors and awards, but it still impressed him.

"I was kind of shocked I got it," Forston said. "I wrote out the application in just an hour and a half. There was work I had to do for school."