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Early Graduation from High School... Then What?

A collection of stories from gifted young high school graduates... some only graduating a year or two early, others graduating radically early.  What's next?  There are LOTS of answers....

I skipped two elementary grades and graduated at age 15, many years ago. I had enough high school credits to graduate a year before that... they'd let me take high school classes in jr. high and community college coursework in high school ...but at the time the school district wasn't sure if the State of Ohio would try to enforce its law that said you had to be at least 17 to get a diploma. (I have no idea if that law was still on the books, but nobody gave me any flak about it.) I went to a couple of great colleges & generally lived happily ever after. -- Laura K.

The PG [profoundly gifted] teenager my husband & I look after didn't skip any grades -- it just isn't done in her school system. She graduated from high school this spring at age 17. She didn't have a good time in junior high or early high school. However, she qualified for Washington's statewide "Running Start" program, and was able to earn an AA from the local community college during her last two years of high school. I think the only high school class she attended during her junior and senior years was driver's ed. She took everything else over at the college campus. Now she's doing Americorps community service work (teaching at a local grade school - a great fit for her), and plans to get her BS when she's done her two years in that program. She'll be the same age as her college classmates then (this matters to her) and will probably take the place by storm.

My daughter didn't skip any grades - she was in a Montessori school that met her needs pretty well through 6th grade. By 8th grade she was bored and having behavior problems so in 9th grade dual enrolled at the local community college. In twelve months she earned 40 college credits and completed 5 high school classes. She then was accepted as a transfer student (never graduated from high school) at a major state university, at the age of 15, where she lived in a co-op with five other young women because she was too young to live in the dorm. She did well her first semester but then got frustrated during the second semester that it wasn't what she really wanted. (Said it was too much like 8th grade. ????) 

She is now 16 and taking time off from organized schooling, focusing heavily on her piano (practicing 4 to 6 hours a day, for which she had little time in college), reading lots of literature, history and political science, and reviewing calculus 1 and 2. She is getting some social life by hanging around at her former high school after school with some of her friends there and practicing with their track team (though she can't participate in meets). She is happy, challenged and productive. I have no idea what the future will bring, but we continue to take it one day at a time. -- Mary M.

I graduated at 16 after junior year (I had previously also skipped 4th grade in elementary school). I went to an extremely selective college, really loved it and had a great time. I then took a year to study in Europe on a Fulbright Fellowship, then went on to law school. I have been very successful in my career and have many interests. I am very happy about my early graduation and succeeded in college both academically and socially. I must mention that I was a little clueless about some practical aspects of semi independent dorm life (by not paying bills on time I screwed up my credit rating for YEARS, ruined much clothes before learning how to do laundry, that kind of thing). -- Regina

I graduated from high school at the end of my junior year, when I was 16. I spent the following year as a foreign student in Germany, where I lived with a family and attended a Germany gymnasium, roughly the equivalent of high school, plus a couple of years. This was a wonderful, mind-expanding year for me and has remained a source of great pleasure throughout the 35 years since then. I still am in contact with my German family. When I returned, I went to college at what would have been the regular time for me. -- Laura W.

My daughter recently graduated from high school at the age of 16. She has gone straight off to college and is enjoying it a lot so far, but she is still just a freshman, so it is a little early to tell what her long range reaction will be. She is even thinking about getting a job there over the summer.

And a story from another viewpoint...

My sister was a junior in high school when my father urged her to apply for a scholarship for college. She didn't really want to, but they were worried about money, so she did. She got the scholarship and so my father felt she should use it, in case she couldn't get it the next year. She did fine, but I don't think she was mentally prepared for the step and it wasn't really her choice. She switched to a different college after the first two years. In my opinion, it works better if the student him/herself is really committed to the decision.

My sister and husband both skipped grades earlier on and ended up in college at 17. My husband later took a semester off to do an internship abroad and took fewer courses the last year in college so that he ended up finishing college at the age most people do. My sister couldn't take time off from college for financial reasons, but spent a few years after college working abroad and here before going on to medical school at a relatively late age (for medical school). Not sure what all this means about early college, but going one year early created no problems at all for either of them - both did quite well academically and were happy socially. I suspect that if they'd gone a year later, they would still have taken as much time off and would have just been a year older when they settled down after college. 

My son graduated at 15 having skipped two grades. He did all the usual college boards etc, but then went into a dance career where he has been able to travel around the world. The challenge was in his not having a dorm-type situation to move into. He had to live independently and some stuff like signing a lease, getting a bank account out of state, and figuring out what he needed for the various countries he traveled to were a challenge. He figured if he didn't make it as a dancer, he could still enter college and be roughly the same age as everyone else. He did apply to Columbia after his first or second year, but got the contract he was hoping for and decided to stay in dance. It is a totally different avenue for an academically advanced kid, but it worked for him. He's now 21 and looking for new challenges like breaking into choreography. Another BIG challenge was finding ways to self-direct his need for intellectual stimulation and challenge in a world that isn't exactly known for it. He found a way to address that very big need, but it took a while and was frustrating and depressing at times. -- Becky

I started college at the end of my sophomore year of high school, at fifteen. For the first time in ages I found myself challenged, and I adored it. After a year I enrolled in a program and volunteered in the inner-city in Indianapolis. I taught full-time court-appointed youth for approximately nine months. I was transferred a few times within the organization after that, and gained tremendous experience in many ways, from being part of a team writing character curriculum, to interacting with judges, mayors, and other government officials over the following year. 

After the 18-month break, I returned to college. I found the time away very valuable. The experiences were incredible, and I learned many things during that period that no college curriculum could ever teach. -- Niff

I graduated from high school at 16, and turned 17 the summer before college started.  To be honest, it made no difference at all, and I can't imagine having done it any other way. -- Carolyn K., director of Hoagies' Gifted Education Page

 Last updated December 01, 2020  

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