Should You Go to College Early? The Pros and Cons
Nontraditional adult college students—those attending college later in life, after the traditional ages of 18 to 22—are a fast-growing segment of college populations. But we don’t hear as often about nontraditional students on the other side of the typical age—those who enter college younger than their peers. They’re more rare as a group, but they’re out there.
Students who go to college early may have been home schooled, or they may have graduated high school early or decided to leave before graduation for a variety of reasons. If you’ve graduated early, you can also go to college early. However, there are a few stipulations—and things to consider.
You need to meet the requirements
These may vary according to the distance education college. Most schools will accept students age 17 without batting an eye, as many traditional high school students graduate at this age. However, you may have difficulty getting accepted into a college any younger than 16. Many colleges are reluctant to have students as young as 13 or 14 live by themselves on campus, so if you are accepted, you
may have to live at home.
Deciding on your college path isn't easy-and that's true when early college admission is an option as well as if you're more or less committed to a more traditional education.
Most colleges will consider you as any other applicant if you’ve already graduated from high school. If you haven’t, you could still be considered traditionally with a GED. If you have neither a high school diploma or a GED, the school may be willing to consider your application anyway with the right standardized test scores from the SAT or ACT—but this can vary between schools, so it’s best to talk to an admissions counselor.
The college environment is designed for older students. As a younger student, there’s a certain amount of independence that you’ll need to be ready for if you’re attending at a traditional campus. Because of your age, you’ll have less freedom than your peers—you won’t be able to drive, for example; you may not be able to get a job on your own; and so on. Living by yourself, you may be required to solve daily problems that you’re not ready for as a younger student. In addition, the party environment at some schools isn’t appropriate for younger students.
You may be ready intellectually—but are you ready socially?
Part of the college experience is being able to blossom socially—and find peers you relate to. It’s more difficult to do that as a younger student, and you may miss out on that part of the college experience. Older students don’t necessarily get that part of the college experience, either—but younger students can make the choice to wait.
Getting done early has its own pros and cons
Getting done with your education early can be an advantage, if you can make it work for you. You’ll get started earlier in your career or postgraduate studies—and you’ll have more time to figure out your career path and build up your earning potential. Then again, you may decide that what you wanted when you were fifteen or younger isn’t the same thing you want when you’re twenty-four—and that you went completed college too young to make a good decision about your career path.
Deciding on your college path isn’t easy—and that’s true when early college admission is an option as well as if you’re more or less committed to a more traditional education. Going to college early isn’t for everyone. It has its pitfalls, but for some people, it can prove to be just what they need to get started—both in their education and in life.
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