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Graduating early for age vs. applying to highly selective colleges

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#1 wapiti

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Posted 12 June 2011 - 11:05 AM

I think I know the answer to this, though I'd like to confirm it here (plus I'm hoping that merely writing this out will help flesh out my thinking). Would it be more advantageous, for the sake of admission to highly selective colleges, to not grade skip during middle school, and not start high school "early," which would leave a year for even more advanced coursework during high school? (In either situation, the student will spend four years at the high school; it's just a question of starting early/ending early by one year, or starting and ending on time for age.)

Background: suppose you have a student who, for the sake of this hypothetical, takes algebra in 6th grade. He homeschools for middle school and moves on to a Jesuit high school. The high school is considered excellent and includes the ability for advanced students to take courses at the related Jesuit university (leaving aside the issue of college credit). Naturally there is a large selection of APs. The student will have the opportunity to place into higher level classes at the start of high school for math, languages, and English. Nonetheless, there are enough "average" students such that, with lots of hard work, the boy might have the potential to end up at the very top of the class, say in the top handful or top 10. Suppose this boy hopes to attend medical school, which will involve its own strategy in terms of which college is more likely to help a medical school application, but highly selective colleges that also happen to have generous grading policies are likely to top his dream list.

I think the answer is that it would be better not to start and end high school early for the purpose of highly selective college admissions, but I'd like to hear from someone with experience ;). (I do feel a little silly, because I have a few years to figure this out, but I can't help myself. Let's leave aside the fact that the boy in question has a twin brother who is equally or even more capable, but who is not as academically driven at the moment.) I also wonder how big an effect a single year has on SAT scores. My guess is that admissions people aren't going to notice the age of the student, whereas they would notice the more advanced work. True?

Edited by wapiti, 12 June 2011 - 11:10 AM.


#2 actuary

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Posted 12 June 2011 - 11:21 AM

I didn't homeschool at all, but I skipped a grade in high school.

I did algebra in 7th grade, geometry in 8th, high school biology in 8th.

Then once in high school I was bored and didn't really like it.

So I took the SAT once, in 10th grade. I got a 690 critical reading, 740 math, 790 writing.

I skipped my junior year of high school.

I got into early admission a top 25 university. And got into an honors program at the university.

I did a total of 8 AP classes during my time in high school. If I had stayed for a fourth year in high school I would have had 14 AP's.

So I don't know if I'm helping a lot, but I guess in my experience the university seemed impressed that I was able to skip a year of high school - maybe it set me apart. I mean I don't know what went into the admissions process. But I got into the honors programs which was even more selective than the overall admissions.

I'm sure if I'd taken the SAT again, my score would have improved. But it was decent enough to begin with, that I didn't really care that much.

I'm not sure if my experience helps much or was what your are looking for though.

ETA: yeah they'll prob. be paying attention to more advanced work than age

#3 actuary

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Posted 12 June 2011 - 11:27 AM

Oh sorry I see what you're saying now, he would spend four years in high school regardless.

I still think managing a grade skip in high school is pretty cool though and would help set you apart from the competition, but admittedly I am incredibly biased ;)

#4 Ester Maria

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Posted 12 June 2011 - 11:51 AM

That's what we attempt to do, even if our daughters are accelerated one year within one system. I greatly prefer an unusually strong academic background to have them graduate several years early for the sake of it. Even more so if you can back up their accomplishments by internationally recognized exams, graduating within more school systems, etc. It beats classical acceleration any time in my view.

#5 8FillTheHeart

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Posted 12 June 2011 - 01:42 PM

Have you read Kathy in Richmond's posts? She definitely went the "let them graduate at normal age" route. She has really helped me form my own views in that direction. We are developing not only our ds's skills, but we are helping him pursue his passion and using homeschooling to develop that. (though you will lack that flexibility with an actual high school.) FWIW, I do understand how you feel (our ds took his first alg course at age 10 and was actually ready for it the yr before that but I didn't believe it. )

#6 jdarling

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Posted 12 June 2011 - 01:47 PM

I would say that they are more likley to look at academic scores verses the age of the student.

#7 mooooom

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Posted 12 June 2011 - 02:58 PM

but she never skipped a grade. She just started first grade right before turning 5 (she has twin brothers exactly 13 months older than her). I honestly can't say that it has hurt her in any way (and holding her back would have crushed her. I think all kids should be allowed to go at their own pace and graduate when they are ready.

I spent the entire year of first grade sitting in the corner reading while the rest of the class learned how to read. I was sent to the second grade math class every day where everyone stared at me. I did this pretty much my entire school life until high school, where I just graduated in 3 years and got into the college of my choice. I was miserable in school up until high school, I never understood why it was okay to spend so many years getting moved around classrooms instead of just putting me somewhere that was at the right level permanently. And why my parents didn't fight it, they just kept me supplied with harder material at home. I wouldn't wish that on any bright kid.

#8 8FillTheHeart

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Posted 12 June 2011 - 03:19 PM

(and holding her back would have crushed her. I think all kids should be allowed to go at their own pace and graduate when they are ready.

I wouldn't wish that on any bright kid.


There is a huge difference between graduating at the normal age and not allowing kids to progress at their own pace. I don't think anyone is recommending a typical high school course plan. (at least I am definitely not. ;))

These 2 posts show what Kathy did with her kids:
http://www.welltrain....ar#post1559496
http://www.welltrain....am#post2701753

My rising 10th grader has already taken alg 1 (twice using different texts), geo, alg 2, alg 3, counting and probability, pre-cal, physics, chemistry, astronomy.......He already has almost 17 high school credits. I'm not planning on his graduating early b/c I think his chances for admission and scholarship $$ increase as he stands out more for the talent he has than competing against others with similar transcripts.

But, Jenny in Fl has posts about her dd's early graduation experience which affirm that decision as well. Her dd graduated from high school at 12 and has already graduated with her bachelors at 16.

#9 OLG

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Posted 12 June 2011 - 03:45 PM

One issue with a young college entrant that seldom gets discussed is the fact that these kids will be in the dorms with older people. The Harvard Admissions guy specifically said that this was a concern for them - they want living communities that meld and while there are articles of very young kids attending superb schools, this is not the norm and often these kids do not live on campus. From what I could read into the comments from the Ivies admissions folks, they DO take into consideration the age of the student even when they present with a stellar resume. For the sake of the student, this makes sense too. Just throwing this out there.

#10 wapiti

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Posted 12 June 2011 - 04:21 PM

Perfect - I'm starting to get that "duh" feeling about my question, i.e., the answer is starting to gel...

8FilltheHeart, that was so kind of you to find Kathy's posts for me!!! Now if only I could open them (I think something's wrong with my computer - weird). I vaguely recall reading some very cool posts of hers. Yes, I do have a few evenings ahead of me for reading through some fascinating posts by her, as well as by yourself and some other posters. And who knows, maybe I'll end up hs-ing for high school, though that would only happen if I were fairly confident that I could offer more than the school (I'm nowhere near that point right now - I've only been hs-ing for 6 months, and only one of my kids. Just let me graduate #5 from potty training; #6 is still in diapers :lol:). I don't know how you all do it - I'm so impressed.

I surprised myself yesterday when, on a long drive, I suddenly realized that ds might be doing algebra in 6th gr (he'll be starting MM 5 this fall in 3rd - I'm not even hs-ing him yet - the plan is to start hs-ing him in one year). Y'all probably think I'm nuts for considering all this so soon, and maybe his med school wish is a passing childhood whim, but he's incredibly serious about it (he's pretty stubborn, but I can get him to do just about anything if I convince him it'll help him become a neurosurgeon, LOL). I'd like to do everything I can to make his dream possible, with maximum flexibility of course. I was contemplating the age thing only because it's such a long road to a subspecialty in medicine, who wouldn't want to be a year younger :D. But it does seem to make sense for him to finish high school at the regular time, as long as there's challenge (it's not as though he were PG or anything).

What amazes me is the lack of options for middle school. At the moment, hs-ing seems to be the only way that makes sense. (Don't tell my mother, who doesn't entirely approve. whatever.) He should be glad his sister is the guinea pig. Middle school I should be able to handle, even with some high school math, if I can absorb some of the wisdom on these boards.

Thanks again, 8 and everyone else, I appreciate your input.

#11 8FillTheHeart

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Posted 12 June 2011 - 06:26 PM

Now if only I could open them (I think something's wrong with my computer - weird)..


I wasn't you. It was actually the way I posted them. Try these links instead. They should work.

http://www.welltrain...ear#post1559496

http://www.welltrain...xam#post2701753

#12 Love_to_Read

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Posted 12 June 2011 - 06:46 PM

A friend of mine graduated early (14? 15? 16? ...I've forgotten) with honors from an extremely rigorous high school and was asked by Harvard to wait another year to re-apply, solely for age. They basically guarenteed her spot.

Another early graduate (13?) I knew went to an almost-Ivy school, and was exempted from their on-campus freshman policy to live with his mom...I'm not sure if it was his idea or if the school pushed it.

granted these were both a while ago...1990's

#13 creekland

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Posted 13 June 2011 - 05:01 AM

I'm another who has two who could have gone to college early, but we're having them go at the normal age because I simply think it's better for them. They have their whole lives to be adults. I don't mind letting them have the "freedom" being a teen gives them. For oldest it wasn't a big deal as we didn't accelerate his classes the way we could have. We slowed him down and had him skip a year of certain classes instead. It didn't hurt him for what he wants to do, but if I had it to do over again (meaning if I had found this board sooner) I'd have selected other possibilities for him to do.

Middle son has taken some college courses at our local cc (college level) and has just packed in loads of science courses in general.

Both were in ps until 9th and 7th respectively. Youngest (more average academically) wanted to go back to ps for 9th grade and enjoys it. When we asked our older two if they wanted to they said, "no way!" I think kids who are bored in ps need to be homeschooled.

#14 FaithManor

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Posted 13 June 2011 - 07:31 AM

So much depends on the kid. I am speaking from my own experience and my cousin's as well.

I graduated high school at 16. I went to a private school that did not offer any maths beyond trigonometry, only one year of physics, and the advanced English classes just weren't challenging for me. I had been bored in high school and I was ALL about the piano. I had no life from 6th grade on. I did nothing but practice, practice, practice, practice, and do homework. It was my goal, not my parents, and having been "born 21" as my mother likes to put it, I was fine. But, not having more advanced classes was a non-issue as long as my ACT score was good because I was going to be majoring in music. My musical pursuits, abilities, and achievements were the big selling point to my top tier LAC, not my lack of AP physics or calculus. For a STEM oriented student, I think this would be unwise.

My cousin skipped two grades in PS. She was headed into biology/bio-chem. She still went to high school four years and graduated with lots of advanced classes, but went off to the dorms at 16 1/2. She was an excellent college student. She was a POOR adult. I don't know any other way to say it. She did not do well having what was left of her childhood cut short. She didn't relate to anyone, felt completely left out, retreated deeper and deeper into the lab, didn't eat enough, had health problems from pushing herself too hard and forgetting to eat/stay hydrated, etc. It was a disaster. My aunt and uncle will tell you that the worst decision they ever made was to allow her to be that accelerated. If they could take that back, they would. She is now 45 and just beginning to really be a secure human being despite all of her achievements.

I am facing this decision with our rising 6th grader. He is absolutely desperate to begin algebra 1 and biology; frankly, he can handle the academic material. The issue for us is that we do not have a college of any sort nearby that is worth attending so if he's done with say calculus and AP physics at 16, what will we do then? He is also a home-body, needs lots of support from mom and dad to feel successful despite his brilliance and IQ, etc. So, leaving the nest early for adult life in a STEM school could be a catastrophic failure for him. I laughingly told dh that at his current rate, he'd be ready for his math or engineering major by the time he's 15 so one of us will have to go live in the dorm with him! Unfortunately, this is partially true. What he can handle in academic ability at a young age does not match with his emotional/social maturity.

Therefore, our current plan for him is another round of pre-algebra for 6th grade but with math project learning to keep him busy. He's currently designing a LTA helium blimp which will fly over our town taking aerial photos of local farms. Dh is guiding him through the process and he will have other similar projects throughout the year with the hope that if he is feeling held back or unchallenged in math and science curriculum, he won't mind it too much while he uses his math skills to do these physics projects. I'll also require research writing out of him and a properly detailed tri-fold display board for each one which will hopefully help fill up his time.

7th grade- algebra 1 and physical science, 8th - geometry and biology, 9th - algebra 2 and chemistry, 10th - trigonometry and advanced chemistry, 11th - calculus 1 and physics, 12th - some sort of advanced geometry that dh knows all about and is GREEK to me, along with advanced physics/AP physics testing and a bunch of MIT opencourseware sciences.

After that, for this child, we are seriously considering a gap year to include an international travel trip with us, plus an internship with DOW Chemical or other science industry within commuting distance. Unless this child really matures and gains a lot of ground in the self-confidence department during high school, we think that entering college at 19 is a much better choice for him.

So, I guess it truly depends on the maturity of the child. I was just fine and our dd, had she chosen this route, would have been dandy too! My cousin...total disaster. She even delayed college graduation by taking FAR more classes than she needed (ended up with 175 credits)...just keep filling a schedule with anything she could find because she was not ready emotionally to leave the sanctity of her dorm room and lab for grad school and adult life. She did this all through her twenties...found excuses to NOT graduate with her master's even though she'd fufilled her requirements; this stymied her professors who had never met a 25 year old they couldn't kick out of the academic master's nest! Deliberately botched her PH.D. dissertation, much to the complete shock of her mentor, in order to put off graduating with her PH.D. and taking the research job offered her. She was seriously messed up and today will tell you it all began with skipping grades in middle school.

Evaluate your child carefully and go with your gut.

Faith

#15 Mostlyamom

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Posted 13 June 2011 - 01:52 PM

I have heard that for each year of additional schooling, it adds 1-2 points to the ACT score. I don't know if it is true, but it does make sense to me that a student's score WOULD be higher with more time to learn.

--M

#16 emubird

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Posted 16 June 2011 - 08:35 AM

My kids looked like they'd be ready to start college early, back when they were in 6th grade. And they were ready. But a couple things happened.

First, they acquired a lot more interests, and the thought of heading off to college where they were going to get told what to do for 4 years didn't really interest them. They wanted to go eventually, but they didn't see the point of rushing it when they could spend time working on other things that they wouldn't have a chance to get to otherwise. High school is a wonderful time for that.

Second, although they were certainly ready at a young age, they're even more ready if they wait until the normal age. This opens up possibilities to them in college that they might have skipped if they'd gone earlier. An older child can take their maturity and use it to be more involved in useful extracurriculars, or to double or triple major.

Third, college really isn't geared to younger students. There are a lot of internship and job possibilities that are critical for getting a job in the future. These generally aren't open to kids who are too young.

Fourth, more time before college gives the student more time to explore to find out what they really want to do. Just because they're good at math in 6th grade doesn't mean they want to spend the rest of their life in a math field. They may not have discovered yet what else is out there.

Also, you'll probably find that although *you've* got the high school years all mapped out, as kids get into things like higher math, one discovers that a little more time to mature is very helpful for understanding the concepts. Even if the kid is super bright.

And after seeing some kids who started college early because their parents "knew" they were ready, I'm actually a little skeptical that it's the best thing. I haven't seen any success stories. I've only seen disasters. There might be the occasional child who does well, but there must be a lot more who don't, given the sample I've seen.

In this age of the internet, I'm not even sure what the point of early college is. If a child wants to explore more, and have the benefit of college lectures, they can just go to the web.

You may also discover that a selective school (which only means LOTS of people apply there) may not be what your student needs or wants.

#17 choirfarm

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Posted 16 June 2011 - 09:31 AM

Here is another thing to consider:

A friend of mine had a daughter who wanted to graduate early. Planned from the beginning to do this. So she took the PSAT... she was just a couple points shy of national merit status. So when she starts actually visiting colleges, she chickens out. She decides she wants to stay home another year... If she had waited to take the PSAT when she was REALLY a junior, then I'm guessing she would have been a finalist easily.. I think she got a 210 or 211. Anyway, it is too late... They can't recertify her. So she needs to know before she takes the PSAT.

Christine

#18 regentrude

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Posted 16 June 2011 - 09:43 AM

In this age of the internet, I'm not even sure what the point of early college is. If a child wants to explore more, and have the benefit of college lectures, they can just go to the web.


The internet does not help a student who thrives in a classroom setting, loves face-to-face interaction and craves academic competition with other students - and is desperate to finally have this component which has been missing form her homeschool.

#19 Sandra in FL

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Posted 17 June 2011 - 04:40 PM

My mother-in-law who is a retired Montessori school owner told me to "go horizontally, not vertically." In other words, don't advance a child beyond their normal grade but deep the study (by more challenging work) and add enrichment (whether music, sports, volunteer work). I never pushed any of my kids ahead (grade-wise). In fact, I've held 2 of them back (they're on the Sept 1 border) to give them a chance to mature.

The highly selective colleges now look for kids with a "passion" - not necessarily the "well-rounded" kid. But really for medical school, IMO it's best to go to a state school and save the money for medical school. What's important for med school admission are grades and MCAT scores - not what school you went to. I'd try to arrange the child's schedule so that he'll take Biology in 8th grade, Chem in 9th so he can do AP Bio, AP Chem and AP Physics in 10th, 11th and 12th grade and get a leg up on the tough BIO and Chem weed-out classes in college. The math and physics aren't as important.

#20 Medstudent

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Posted 18 June 2011 - 02:42 AM

My mother-in-law who is a retired Montessori school owner told me to "go horizontally, not vertically." In other words, don't advance a child beyond their normal grade but deep the study (by more challenging work) and add enrichment (whether music, sports, volunteer work). I never pushed any of my kids ahead (grade-wise). In fact, I've held 2 of them back (they're on the Sept 1 border) to give them a chance to mature.

The highly selective colleges now look for kids with a "passion" - not necessarily the "well-rounded" kid. But really for medical school, IMO it's best to go to a state school and save the money for medical school. What's important for med school admission are grades and MCAT scores - not what school you went to. I'd try to arrange the child's schedule so that he'll take Biology in 8th grade, Chem in 9th so he can do AP Bio, AP Chem and AP Physics in 10th, 11th and 12th grade and get a leg up on the tough BIO and Chem weed-out classes in college. The math and physics aren't as important.


This is a good point. Another issue is that med school admissions will care. I have seen many very bright students not being accepted because they were "too young". Med school is professional school. If you wear your white coat and look like you're playing dress-up in your daddy's clothes, patients won't take you seriously and you won't be able to do your job. One of the people in the year ahead of me is like that- he's only 22 and just started his fourth year of med school. Brilliant guy, and a total sweetheart. His grades in the pre-clinical (lecture-based) classes were fantastic. However, his comments since starting third year have been abysmal. Patients don't take him seriously, and he doesn't have the emotional maturity to handle a lot of what's thrown at him- mean surgeons yelling at him in the OR, very emotionally difficult cases, etc. Since then, the medical school has made a point of really taking into consideration the age of the applicant- it's really in the student's best interest, not the school's.

#21 Gwen in VA

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Posted 18 June 2011 - 06:29 AM

"go horizontally, not vertically." In other words, don't advance a child beyond their normal grade but deep the study (by more challenging work) and add enrichment (whether music, sports, volunteer work).


:iagree:

Edited by Gwen in VA, 18 June 2011 - 09:29 AM.


#22 creekland

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Posted 18 June 2011 - 06:51 AM

My mother-in-law who is a retired Montessori school owner told me to "go horizontally, not vertically." In other words, don't advance a child beyond their normal grade but deep the study (by more challenging work) and add enrichment (whether music, sports, volunteer work).


I love this. It's a great way of putting my thoughts into words. I'll probably borrow it the next time someone asks why I didn't advance my guys.

This is a good point. Another issue is that med school admissions will care. I have seen many very bright students not being accepted because they were "too young". Med school is professional school. If you wear your white coat and look like you're playing dress-up in your daddy's clothes, patients won't take you seriously and you won't be able to do your job. One of the people in the year ahead of me is like that- he's only 22 and just started his fourth year of med school. Brilliant guy, and a total sweetheart. His grades in the pre-clinical (lecture-based) classes were fantastic. However, his comments since starting third year have been abysmal. Patients don't take him seriously, and he doesn't have the emotional maturity to handle a lot of what's thrown at him- mean surgeons yelling at him in the OR, very emotionally difficult cases, etc. Since then, the medical school has made a point of really taking into consideration the age of the applicant- it's really in the student's best interest, not the school's.


And this is what I was concerned about. I've seen some kids advanced at our high school (1 or 2 grades) and they don't generally handle the "other stuff" well even if they can easily do the academics.

#23 mllehmann

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Posted 18 June 2011 - 03:26 PM

I had similar questions when my oldest was in middle school as he was advanced for his grade in all subjects. I discussed with him the options available to him (early graduation and college as a young teen) and how it may be difficult to find high school classes that would be interesting and challenging if we continued homeschooling. There are no local high schools that could offer the challenge he sought.

He decided that he did not want to graduate early. He started taking community college classes (computer science) at 14. He took online AP classes as a sophomore. As a junior, he enrolled for dual credit at the community college. He completed the calculus series of classes and plans to take differential equations/linear algebra, next year. He has taken majors chemistry as well and plans on taking majors physics and organic chemistry in the fall. He is still looking for that challenge. Each year his PSAT, SAT, and ACT scores are better than the time before (he has alternated between SAT & ACT each year since 8th grade).

In the meantime, he has time to continue his interests in music and get together with friends to just have fun.

He has started talking to various universities around the country. The most selective ones will not transfer any of the community college courses, but will consider them in placing him for classes as an entering freshman. Other universities will transfer them for credit and allow him to enter as a freshman (for scholarship purposes), giving him the ability to double major in math and science if he so chooses to take four years to complete his bachelors.

Within the next six months, he will know which of the schools (including some selective ones) will accept them and how much they really want him to attend (merit scholarship money). He is happy with the decision he made to wait, but is anxious to see what happens over the next year.

#24 Tap

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Posted 25 June 2011 - 10:39 AM

Ds16 is dual enrolled at the CC. He took some honors classes at the public school in 10th grade. He hated the social part of high school. He is a very social kid, active in church and in a gaming group (in person not online) and forms friends wherever he goes, but he really disliked the sex, drugs, and disrespect at high school. Once he got to CC he was much more comfortable socially. He found that people were more respectful and were there for an education not just a place to hang out.

At 16 he has taken chem 1,2,3 and calc 1,2,3. He has also taken about 15 other credits in general classes (writing, music, literature etc)

I have told him many times that I wonder if he would have been better served to do a second 8th grade year. But instead of doing the typical 3Rs, delving deeper into some subjects that he really enjoyed.

My perspective comes from the idea that he will graduate Soooo young. To me, what good is it to have a BS at 19? A MS at 21-22? With the job market being so tough, will a young 21yo candidate really be a consideration?

We have modified our plan. He is going to take a gap year between his CC AS (at 17yo) and starting his BS at university. (The university he plans to go to will accept his AS.) For this year he is going to do something to round out his person, not necessarily counting towards his education. He may do some missions work, extensive volunteerism, internship, or take course work in classes outside his major but that interest him....or course work at a local Bible College. He is very excited about this idea of a gap year, and honestly the timing is great. He is socially ready to be a young adult (not a teen) but not nec interested on living on his own yet. He already fills his down time with great endeavors, so I am not worried about wasted time.

We pretty much recreated the same idea of a repeated 8th grade year, into a gap year.



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