Gifted high school juniors-and even younger students-occasionally consider Early Admission to college. Early Admission for a junior means the student applies for and is accepted to a university in 11th grade. He skips his senior year in lieu of starting college early. For students to do so, they need to complete the requirements of the high school, which might entail taking a summer community college course prior to the junior year-or doubling up on requirements during the school year. It is imperative that a student meet with the high school counselor in sophomore year, if he is contemplating the Early Admission option.
There are split opinions as to whether or not Early Admission is a good idea. In this article, three experts offer points to contemplate if you are considering Early Admission to a university.
Early Admission is often confused with two other terms, Early Action and Early Decision. Dr. Stephen Friedfeld, co-founder of EqualApp, formerly worked in admissions and academic advising at Cornell University and was an associate dean at Princeton. He explained the differences in terms to me this way:
Early Action or Early Decision occurs in the senior year of high school. Students must submit their applications by November 1st or 15th. They then receive an acceptance/rejection/deferral by December 15th. The student does not start college until September of the following year, but will have an early reply–which is always nice for seniors!
If admitted under Early Decision, the student must attend that college, so she better be certain this is her top choice. If admitted under Early Action, the student does not have to enroll and can instead apply to other colleges and find out answers by April.
Dr. Friedfeld offers these questions that students who are considering Early Admission-and their parents-should consider.
–Has the student exhausted all the high-level courses available in high school?
–Is the student socially mature?
–Has the student taken all necessary standardized tests required by the college?
–If not admitted under Early Admission, will the student re-apply to that same college in his senior year, and does he have a list of other colleges to consider?
–Was the student thorough in the college search process? That is, did the student consider many different colleges, or is she only considering one or two for Early Admission following the junior year of high school?
From a personal perspective, Dr. Friedfeld does not recommend students leaving high school a year early to start college. He skipped fourth grade and was a year younger than his classmates from fifth grade on. He started a Ph.D. program at age 21 and says he could not relate to other graduate students, as he was even younger than many undergrads. He believes that-while a one-year age span might not seem like much to us adults-for adolescents and college-age students, that difference can be great from a social-development perspective. Academically, even if a student is highly gifted and could handle the rigors of college a year early, there are many great opportunities at high schools now for seniors to advantage of, including AP and IB courses.
Reecy Aresty, author of How to Pay for College without Going Broke, and creator of The College Information Network, offered me his thoughts as well. He believes that Early Admission is a daunting task. The upside is finishing college earlier, but he believes the negative consequences could be severe: overworked, emotionally unprepared, and socially unaccepted. Many colleges won’t even entertain this concept. Aresty says over many years he’s only had a handful of students accepted for early admissions: in one case, two brothers went to college the same year-one was 18 and one was 16.
AimeeYermish, educational therapist for da Vinci Learning Center, in Stow, Massachusetts, has a different take on Early Admission to college. She was an early college entrant herself, having matriculated full-time at age 16. Yermish believes that there are misconceptions regarding academic acceleration. She points to the research literature summarized in the 2004 report, “A Nation Deceived,” which supports early college entry as a viable option for many gifted students. Early Admission is recommended both for social-emotional and for academic reasons. “Kids don’t all develop social and emotional maturity in lock-step, so many kids, who are one or two years younger than typical, are able to blend into a college environment quite seamlessly.”
Yermish believes that, for many students, going to a competitive college, whether “on time” or a year or two early, is a way out of the social isolation they often experience, particularly in small high schools. In fact, many gifted adults cite college as having been the first time they felt “normal.” They experience more social and emotional success than they had in high school.
Yermish doesn’t generally suggest that a student matriculate when he’s too young to blend into the college community as an equal, as he’ll miss out on life experience. She’d rather see a student do internships, attend community college, work, travel, or pursue other exploration for a year or two, if he needs to wait. However, she thinks the point at which a given student is “ready” is really an individual decision. Some kids are ready to take the leap at age 16, just like some aren’t ready yet when they’re 22.
Before a young adult accepts Early Admission, consider whether she is really ready to self-regulate, take care of daily needs, manage time and money and homework, deal with relationships, and generally make smart choices.
Stephen Friedfeld, Ph.D.; Co-Founder, COO, EqualApp
Aimee Yermish, PsyD; Educational Therapist, da Vinci Learning Center, Stow, MA
Reecy Aresty; Author; Creator, The College Information Network
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