I received the following question:
Hi! How do you handle the advanced student and how do colleges view young applicants. Is it better to stretch the younger student till the “typical” age before plugging her into high school/college prep classes or just let her “graduate” early and proceed as a young college student? I am conflicted!
It really can be a struggle to decide whether to just challenge a student, or whether to skip them ahead. There is no one-size-fits-all answer, but here are a few questions to ask yourself to help determine which route is best for your family.
1. While your student is advanced academically, are they advanced in maturity? Many times students may be strong academically but are still developing in their self discipline, time management, responsibility and other aspects of personal maturity. They may not be ready to be around college-age students and have the responsibilities of college-level work.
2. Is your student ready to have permanent college grades? A student may be strong academically, but that doesn't necessarily mean they are ready for the responsibility that comes with taking a college-level course and having the grade they earn become a permanent part of their college transcript.
3. Are there options close to home? I graduated early, and my parents had the stipulation that I had to attend college while living at home. Looking back I believe that was very wise guidance, and would recommend that approach to most families, which begs the question is there an option for the student to live at home and comute?
4. What will be missed by skipping ahead? This is important, once students start college they aren't typically going to go backwards. Are there opportunities only available to them as a high-school student? Will pushing them ahead crowd out the opportunity for family time, for ministry, for travel?
5. Are they considering grad school? If they are going to be in school for longer time it might be worthwhile to go ahead and get an early start, provided you feel good about the answers to the other questions.
6. Does your teen have a clear direction? Do they know what career path they want to pursue? High school provides an amazing opportunity to explore career paths, shadow, and intern. A light year can be an incredible chance to explore different majors/career considerations without the extra stress of attending college, and potentially save time and money by helping prevent so many changes of major.
Obviously the answers to these questions will be different for each student, but hopefully the questions give you some ways to intentionally consider whether graduating early is a good choice for your teen.
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