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3 Signs You’re Ready for College Early (and One Sign You’re Not)

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Many people go to college after they finish high school. Sometimes knowing why, sometimes not. There’s not necessarily anything wrong with that. The usual path works for many students – but not everyone.

Some teens are ready for the challenge of college much earlier than others.

They might sign up for college classes or apply for early entrance at a traditional college. And a lot of them find their way here to Bard College at Simon’s Rock, the only four-year residential liberal arts college for students ready to begin college after the 10th or 11th grade.

Choosing to leave high school and go to college is an important and difficult decision. How can you tell if it might work for you?

You’re not into waiting around. You believe that education is something you do, not something that’s done to you. Maybe you want to dig into a particular field or are dying to explore subjects not offered in high school. You’ve definitely wondered why you have to spend two more years going through the motions.

You’re bored with your high school classes. You think that your high school textbooks are the academic equivalent of wading in the kiddie pool and you’re ready to dive into the deep end. Even the most challenging courses in your high school seem tedious and next year’s classes look no more promising. You’d jump at the chance to study Nietzsche, or learn about the anthropology of music, or dive into quantum physics.

Sometimes you feel like you have to hide your love of learning just to fit in. You have a strong desire – really, a need – to discuss ideas. You often seek teachers, family, and older friends when you want to have an intellectually stimulating conversation. You’d rather spend time exploring your passions than texting about the school dance, upcoming game, or the latest high school drama.

You’re pretty independent. You’re OK with being away from home (you loved sleep-away camp!) And while you know how to look out for yourself, you’re also comfortable reaching out for help – from teachers, mentors or other resources – when you need it.

Is early college for everyone? Definitely not.

You’ll be expected to write (and write and write) in every class. You won’t passively sit back and take notes during a lecture; rather, you’ll participate in rigorous discussions and ask a lot of questions. You won’t just memorize and regurgitate facts, you’ll see how ideas collide, combine and feed off each other.

You’ll be responsible for your education, following your passions and interests to choose or design your own courses, independent projects and internships. Your senior thesis will be the kind of work most people won’t tackle until graduate school. And though you’ll find help and support every step of the way, we can’t promise that it will be easy.

Early college is a significant step, a big responsibility, and hard work.

Not every student is ready – and that’s the point. Students develop at different rates, in different ways. After all, we don’t all think alike or have the same abilities or ambitions. But if you’re ready, if you’re bold and determined enough to question the standard path, there’s a place for you.

[Looking for more tips from the TeenLife Experts? Here's what you need to know about student loan debt!]

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