Sunday, March 24, 2013

Skip high school. Go straight to college. Here’s how!

By Rylie VanOrsdol

In my fourteen years of life, I have been public schooled, online schooled, charter schooled, private schooled, Montessori schooled, and homeschooled. I’ve skipped a grade and completed a grade in three months online. After all the learning options I  have experienced, what I have found is that the traditional path was unable to meet my needs.

A recent adventure was collegiate middle school. This school seemed like a perfect fit for me! I was interested in the idea of a college-focused middle school as I love learning and a challenge. The school was a vastly different environment than the traditional-style schools I had previously attended. It was a comfortable and competitive environment which I enjoyed. About half way through the year there was a change in the head of school and staff. Following the change of staff was my change of heart. By the time I hit eighth grade I started disliking the school. This was an unusual feeling for me because I have always loved learning. I didn’t let it affect my grades but I knew something had to change.

My parents and I spoke. I’m lucky. They have always been supportive and willing to think outside the box to help me achieve my goals. We researched and explored a variety of ideas. The end result was a decision for me to skip high school and become a full-time college student at fourteen.

Now that I’m doing it, I can tell you this: I couldn’t be happier!
I love the freedom and opportunity that college life affords me and I am doing well. I have a 4.0 and am taking all of my required classes first before choosing a final path.

Here is how I did it.

I signed up for my local college’s (State College of Florida) placement exam, the PERT test. I also took the SAT and ACT. I enrolled in the college as a dual enrolled homeschool high school student. My test scores allowed me to enroll in all college level classes. By being dual enrolled, Manatee County pays for two classes per semester, including Summer sessions. My parents pay for the additional three classes which puts me at 15 credit hours per semester.

I don’t actually homeschool or attend high school. I only attend SCF.

I create my own schedule, choose my classes, and review and choose my professors. I don’t have to wear uniforms or conform to rules that were created for a few bad seeds in public schools. I am a mature, responsible teen that does not require micromanagement. I have much more free time than I did before and am treated like an adult. I believe this is why college feels so fantastic!

You may be wondering, something.

“Does she miss her peers?”

I’m lucky that my home has always been a place where teens are welcome in mass numbers and they enjoy being here. I do normal teen things like go to the skating rink and other public events where teens gather. My parents have taught me that if you work hard, you deserve to play hard as well!

I’m not missing out on football games, homecoming dances, or proms. I have friends at many local schools who invite me. In fact, I went to two homecoming dances at two different high schools last Fall.

I will be joining the Honor Society at the college at the end of this semester. It requires time tutoring other students. I enjoy helping others and it can’t hurt my resumé. Most students and almost all of my professors have no idea how old I am. Being 5’7” probably contributes to my looking “age-appropriate.”

When I have been asked outright by other students and admitted my age, most are very welcoming. They think what I’m doing is cool. A few that I have encountered seem uncomfortable and won’t speak to me, but hey, that just feels like high school, and I have no interest in wasting my time with that, you know?

This is not just for geniuses!

Many of my friends are also frustrated with school. I want them to know there is an alternative! I am not some kind of prodigy. My friends have the ability to do exactly what I am doing. Unfortunately, for most, there is one thing holding them back.  Their parents. They aren’t willing to listen and learn about alternate paths to high school.

This decision has been great for me and my personal plans for success right now. Next, I plan on transferring to a University at 15 when I have my AA. What’s nice is that I have all my core classes at an affordable state college and about half of my tuition will have been free since the state pays for that. When I’m ready to dive more deeply into a particular area of study, I will move up the ladder to a university that meets my needs, but, for now, I’m not unnecessarily spending much money as I’m taking the core general ed curriculum.  

If you think skipping high school to go to college might be something you are interested in, you should know that there are plenty of teens exploring what it is like to live a life without traditional school. You can connect with us at School Free Teens on Facebook.  There you can contact me and many others. It’s a great place to share experience, consider questions, and get how to convince your parents to consider other options.  


  1. This is quite an interesting story. I am always amazed by the myriad of ways people can approach education in the US; traditional school, alternative schools, home school, etc. Although there are certainly more choices after high school (e.g., traditional college, online college, nights, weekends, summers, blended, and so on) there seem to be more and more - such as this one - for high school as well. In NYC there are quite a number of ways to go through high school - traditional comprehensive, small, transfer, YABC (Young Adult Borough Centers). One I know of is totally individualized and self paced; others team up with local NGOs to offer internships integrated into the fabric of the school. Blended learning courses are being used, providing flexibility to students who want and need it. (I met a young woman at a transfer HS last year who had a small child and a waitress job she kept up with her work in a blended learning class at home, checking in with her teachers once a week or so. Without a course like that she would have needed to drop out.) This all contrasts to many countries where there is only one way to get through the educational system; good for some, but not for many. We do have a long way to go, but it is heartening that there are more and more educational opportunities for students.

    1. I'm struck by your choice of the words "go through" and "get through" for the student role in education. Unfortunately, that is what it amounts to in far too many cases; a process that one must endure and tolerate to reach some higher goal. You seem to have missed the point of this article, that one does not have to "get through" high school to achieve college.

      Anonymous's comment that Rylie is "one of a kind special," is also interesting in that what Rylie is saying is that she is not special and should not be one of a kind.

      For decades we've known that school does not work for some students, yet for most people it is impossible to imagine a different way of proceeding.

      Every student should question whether the format, location, and process of education they are involved in is right for them and working for them. Every student should consider alternatives that might be more efficient, more effective and more enjoyable. Parents must be open to alternate pathways. Just as their are multiple methods and routes to travel to a location, there are multiple modes and pathways toward learning.

    2. Nope, Deven, I don't think I missed the point of the post; I simply chose to address what occurred to me as I read it - that there are now many "learning options." Rylie did what she needed to do for herself; from your postings I know you did what worked for you. And I did what worked well for me. Nothing missed.

  2. Congratulations! I am so happy for you, I have always known that you would be a success story though I was only there for a part of your journey I wish you have a happy and profitable life. We have not talked in a long time but know you have the support of old friends as well as new

  3. This is a wonderful option for those who are able to do it. Not everyone can even if they want to and their parents want them to. The reasons are that not all 14-year-olds will score high enough on a PERT, SAT, or ACT to gain access to college-level courses even with a 4.0 grade point average. And even if they do score high enough, and the parents are willing to allow this option, there is a matter of affordability. As stated in the article, Manatee County only pays for 2 courses per term, so Rylie's parents had to pay for her other three courses for each term, plus fees and books. Although this is a state college and the tuition is comparatively low, it still costs over $300 per class, not including books. To receive the AA, which is equivalent as a dual-enrolled student to a high school diploma (achieved simultaneously), requires 60 credits. To accomplish this in 2 years will still cost approximately $5,000 without financial aide, which is generally not available while a student is still technically in high school. It still boils down to ability, motivation, and MONEY. Not quite as simple as Rylie makes it sound, but glad it worked for her. As a single parent there is no way I could afford this route for my child.

    1. There are ways to be able to work out a payment plan for your child to attend college. You should talk with your the college financial aid department to understand all your options. They have affordable loans, grants, scholarships, or options to work at the college to help pay tuition. Even as a single parent, I'm assuming you will eventually send you child to college. Whether you pay for it now or later may not make a huge difference, but it will give your child a tremendous jump start for the future.

  4. I think people should follow what their dreams are. And if it is possible, go for it. She chose to work hard to get where she is now.
    THe reason I say go for it is because if you work really hard and then aren't happy with where you turn out, what was the point?

  5. I would be thinking of doing this, because I heard, it's a very friendly area to make new friends and actually be yourself then be in a cramped up high school, with immature people. I'm actually thinking of doing it. It seem's Pretty fun, when I read this blog about what you are doing. I love this article that you had posted. You made it so interesting. I like how you added what you been through when you were just 14. Going through many schooling. able to skip a grade. getting a high enough score to even take college-level classes. Not many 14 year-olds can even do that. I'm very happy for you

  6. I don't think this is for me but If your happy I'm glad.

  7. For many people to walk into a classroom today they may not recognize it as it was when they were in school. The classroom has changed as technology has changed. It is not uncommon to see second grade students using the Internet to communicate with students across the country, or to see high school students using PowerPoint to present a research project.School of Technology Ma

  8. Wow!!! My daughter 'hates' school... she'll do 'anything' not to have to go back to 'prison'...

  9. The only thing I would caution readers about regarding this really excellent post is that Rate My Professors can be a very misleading source of information regarding professors. The ratings tend to be very bi-modal (i.e. very low and very high scores at the same time) and bad ratings do not necessarily equate to a bad professor. I would only use this source if the ratings are universally bad. Also, universally good ratings can simply mean that a professors too easy and not very engaging. My advice would be to ask other students who did well with the professor and ask their opinion. As always, caveat emptor!

  10. I would like to respond to a few comments.

    First, thank you to everyone that took the time to read my article. I appreciate this and I am thankful to Lisa Nielsen for providing me the opportunity to tell my story.

    To the Anonymous single mom: I have researched scholarships online in the past. I found there are scholarships that are need or merit based for students in elementary, middle and high school to attend private institutions as well as scholarships and grants for college students. I did not intend for my story to sound easy or that everyone could do it. What I was trying to convey was that it was an option. In my opinion that is something "The Innovative Educator" presents. I personally know several students who could qualify with test scores and do have the ability to afford the costs, but their parents won't consider it. The parents still feel like getting a high school diploma the traditional way is the only way to go. I understand that my path is not for everyone but I hope I have reached at least one student who didn't realize the route I found was possible.

    John Alex: I couldn't agree with you more about the classroom today being very different. I was never taught cursive writing and have been doing all of my work on a computer since third grade. When I took the SAT and ACT test's essay portions and had to hand write them it was very strange! I had to focus on my ability to print legibly while also creating the essay. I also had to learn how to sign my name for things like my I.D. and bank account information. My mom was shocked that all this time she never realized I was missing a few basic skills, yet creating a Power Point presentation in elementary school was a piece of cake. For people who are out of touch with schooling systems I think they would be very surprised. The most recent thing that bewildered my mother was that I did not know how to address an envelope for snail mail. Technology is taking over!

    Warner and Andi: You have to do what makes you happy! My father was steered in a direction with his education that he was not satisfied with. He ended up going back to school for a different degree so that he could go to work everyday with a smile on his face. This is the reason he encourages me to follow my dreams.

    Anonymous regarding Rate My Professor: Personally, I have really enjoyed the professors I chose who received high ratings. I took one class where the professor wasn't rated nearly as well because it was the only class I could get at the time. This professor is the first one that I really did not care for and would avoid in the future even though they teach some courses I need. For me it has been a great tool and the information has been accurate. We did discuss in my home the idea that there may be professors who want to be recommended highly on the website to ensure their classes are filled and sought after. None of my college courses have been easy A's. The difference for me has been the helpfulness, clarity and fairness of the Professors.

    Here is an example. The professor that I don't really care for lectured a class from 3:30 to 5:20. Following is an assignment of 70 questions that is due by 11:59 that night. I took another course after his from 7:00 to 9:50. This didn't leave me much time to finish his assignment. He didn't always finish his lecture on the topic during class but still wouldn't change the due date. I don't have any real responsibilities other than school. Several of the students in that class had jobs like servers at restaurants from 6:00 to 11:00 after his class. Others had children and families that required their attention. For this reason alone, I wouldn't recommend this professor and can see why others didn't. I would love to be able to speak with students face to face who have taken the professors but I don't know anyone on campus. The reviews I read online seem like what I would hear from an acquaintance at the school.

  11. Do you have to be smart in middle school? for ex. would they need your scores or anything? im in colorado and im 13 years old i want to skip highschool but i dont know exactly if i can study hard and take the colleges placement test? would that help??please help me.

  12. As the parent of a child who went through online schooling for middle school, I really appreciate you taking the time to write a post about the alternatives to traditional education. In my daughter's case, she was actually advanced beyond her school's curriculum, and wanted to finish middle school at her own (much faster pace). I'd recommend it to anyone (I'm looking at you in the above comment, Haras Rasul)