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Gifted Students and Starting College Early

written by: wryan•edited by: Amanda Grove•updated: 7/2/2010

This article explains how gifted, motivated students can begin taking college courses, or even attending college, earlier than normal.

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    Some students have a lot of complaints about high school: that its social scene is too cliquish, that its classes are too easy, or that it simply has too many rules. Most students learn to adapt to it or just grin and bear it. However, some students decide to just begin college early. While many of them do so because they don't like high school, this isn't the only reason to start college early. For many students it can be less expensive to begin college a year early, or if a student's family is moving to a new area it might simply make more sense for them to leave for college instead of spending their senior year at a whole new school. But, regardless of the reasons, if skipping grades for gifted students and starting college early is an option, how do they do it? Well, here's how.

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    Taking College Classes While Still in High School

    For students who want the challenge and rigor of college courses without leaving their high school entirely, taking night or online classes at a local community or state college might be a good alternative. Many community colleges offer night classes, and they will usually open their enrollment to high school students. Also, many colleges offer online classes, which students can complete at their leisure. Either of these methods allows students to fit college coursework into their schedule while still attending high school. This also gives students a chance to earn college credit, usually for a much cheaper price then if they were attending college full time, allowing them to save money later on.

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    Participating in an Early Graduation Program

    Just recently some high schools and colleges have been offering the opportunity for students to test out of high school after their sophomore year, and then enter a community college or traditional college immediately. Most of these programs are offered through the National Center on Education and Economy, which works with students at selected schools to help them graduate early. An example of a college which has proven open to accepting students who graduate in their sophomore year is Rock College of Bard, which has a large population of students who are 15, 16, and 17.

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    Graduating Early From High School

    For students who want the entire traditional college experience early, the best solution may be to graduate early from their high school by fulfilling its graduation requirements ahead of schedule, usually in their junior year, and then apply to a regular four year college. To do so, students should find out what the minimum requirements their high school has for graduation, and then work out a plan for filing them. It may be possible to test out of some required courses. If students ask their guidance counselor about testing out of a course, the counselor should be able to inform students if it is possible. It will probably also be important to take a heavier course load than usual. If a student takes an extra two or three courses a semester, and takes no study halls, they might end up with a sufficient number of credits to graduate. Many high schools also offer courses during the summer, which can be used to fulfill graduation requirements. Taking courses during the summer (from the summer after 8th grade on) should make it much easier to fulfill a school's graduation requirements. However, one must make sure not to overwhelm oneself to the point where one's grades drop. This will make it harder for them to be admitted to college. If it turns out that a student can't fulfill all of their high school's requirements a year early, it might still be possible to graduate a semester early. If a student does graduate early and then applies to colleges, they ought to include an explanation of why they decided to graduate early in their application. Admissions officers will usually be impressed by an early graduator's initiative if they can give good reasons for wanting to start college early.