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Graduating College Early... downfalls?

anoviceanovice Registered User Posts: 1,376 Senior Member
edited May 2006 in Parents Forum
Hello parents,
I came here last year around this time seeking advice about college, life, finances, etc and got some wonderful advice. Now I'm back.

I am a first year engineering student with junior status. I didn't transfer or anything, I just got credit for APs and took classes at a college throughout highschool and transfered those. As I've been planning out what to take in the upcoming semesters what I'm realizing is that in taking a normal 16 credit course load I'll be out of college in three years(a total of; two more years after this one). If I take the right courses in the proper sequence I will be able to complete all of the required courses for my engineering degree and also obtain two minors. So you're probably thinking, "Okay, whats the problem?" Well, I'm young and my parents see this as a big problem. I skipped a grade in gradeschool and now with my recent college plans, I'd graduate undergrad having just turned 20. I plan to go onto some type of grad school but they don't want me "out on my own" so young. My response is "So you want me to waste a full year of college and spend a full year of tuition?"...

They have a point in questioning why to hurry through my younger years and get right to the workforce, but as much as a I like college, I don't think that staying here and taking random(not necessary) classes is going to do me much good. My minors are in my fields of interest so its not like I won't take any *fun* classes.

Will I encounter problems with grad school admissions being so young? Does anyone have experience with this?

My normal adivsor doesn't see any problems with my plans but I'm meeting with another(more experienced) individual later on this week to talk it out some more. I don't need to decide NOW but if I do want to try to graduate early I have to take certain classes at certain times and not take too many slacker classes.

Thanks!
Post edited by anovice on
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Replies to: Graduating College Early... downfalls?

  • VTCorVTCor Registered User Posts: 19 New Member
    I don't know about engineers, but a friend of mine who wanted to be a psychologist graduated from college when she was 20. When she began contacting grad schools, several frankly told her she was too young. She has taken a few years off to work before reapplying. You may want to contact grad schools and ask.
  • jenskate1jenskate1 Registered User Posts: 1,391 Senior Member
    Study abroad. This is the only time in your life, possibly, when you will be able to say, 'you know what? I think i'd like to spend the next 4 months in Vietnam (or South Africa, or Brazil, or Russia, or Nicaragua, or Japan, etc.)
  • itstoomuchitstoomuch . Posts: 1,745 Senior Member
    jenskate has good advice. I add, no such thing as slacker class-You may find later that the slacker class has more lasting value than the technical class that gets obsoleted. Enjoy your 4 years.

    Its nothing about physical age, persay; Life experiences determine your true age.
  • calmomcalmom Registered User Posts: 19,832 Senior Member
    I graduated from college at age 20 (I started at 16), and then went to law school. I had no trouble getting into law school.... but the biggest surprise is that when I got there I wasn't the youngest one - there was at least one student a year younger than me, and several my age. I don't think my age was even factored in to admissions - and I was at a top law school.

    In hindsight, I think it might have been better to defer admission for a year, travel, etc... but I honestly don't think being young was a liability in any way.
  • HImomHImom Registered User Posts: 32,016 Senior Member
    There is an awesome 14 year old engineering freshman student at USoCal. He'll likely graduate at an even younger age than you! I would agree that it is VERY broadening to try different things since you have this flexibility. Two things that are very popular with USC engineering students are summer school in Europe (taught by USC engineering profs) and also internships. We will encourage our son to strongly consider both.

    It would be a good thing to look into internship opportunities at your school, as well as travel options. This could really add to your college experience & learn much more through travel (either with the school, thru a school program, of taking a bit of time off school). Meeting people in different parts of the country or other countries is very broadening. It is also nice to have this flexibility--there really is no rush to hurry through school. This is a time of exploration & growth, a unique moment in time. Cherish it because it will be gone before you know it.
  • quiltguruquiltguru Registered User Posts: 1,476 Senior Member
    It is actually not uncommon to complete an undergraduate degree at age 20. Many of my professional colleagues (include department chiefs) graduated at 20 or earlier. My D is considering a a combined bachelor's/master's program at Yale (her chosen school) from which she would graduate with BOTH degrees at 20. She's NOT a superstar, nerdy, hot shot. She's a regular, mature kid who plans a double major in two VERY different fields (music and either physics or chemistry). I see no problem with her accomplishing this if she chooses. I also see no problem if she completes a 4 year bachelor's degree by age 20 (which she is on course to do). If your college counselor supports your desire to do this, perhaps you could arrange a meeting with you, you counselor, and your parents this spring to discuss it. I suspect they might change their mind if they were to hear how responsible, mature, and ready for this you are from a professor!
  • PA MomPA Mom Registered User Posts: 975 Member
    I graduated at 19 and got recruited by a top national firm. I really don't think they look at age - just that you have your degree. I took a little bit of teasing from colleagues when they wanted to go for a drink after work and I was too young, but other than that I had no problems. I think you know best if you are ready to move on to the next phase of your life. Frankly I was raring to go and do not regret it for a moment. On the other hand I did not have the luxury of having parents willing to pay for more school or travel so I am not sure what I would have done in that case.
  • bethelbethel Registered User Posts: 188 Junior Member
    My daughter started college at 16 and graduated when she was 20 and is now doing postgraduate research for a year in Brazil on a Fulbright fellowship. I think that the more challenging adjustment for her was starting college at an earlier age, not starting postgraduate work earlier.

    Staying another year as an undergraduate just for the sake of your parents' peace of mind (when you're ready to take on the next chapter in your life) doesn't seem like a wise move. Consider that, at your age, you could choose to join the military and go to Iraq - as a parent, that would cause me more sleepless nights than having my son or daughter graduate a year early!
  • TheAnalystTheAnalyst Registered User Posts: 2,814 Senior Member
    An earlier thread talked about a UVA math student who graduated in one year due to a lot of AP credit and heavy courseload. He was accepted directly into grad school at UVA in their Math department, so there was clearly no age discrimination.

    If you dislike school (as I did all my life), it is a relief to get it over with. I also skipped a grade in elementary school and joined the military at 17 to take a break from school. I went to college when I got out, but was able to test out of two years and just got through undergrad and grad as quickly as I could.

    If you actually like school, which sounds like your case, I don't see any drawback to moving on to grad school as soon as possible. If you chose to work a year or two between undergrad and grad school, which you would need to do for some programs, I don't think the age of 20 is at all too young to be on your own. There are tons of great, mind expanding options beyond the classroom.

    Anyway, best of luck in making your decision.
  • anoviceanovice Registered User Posts: 1,376 Senior Member
    Thanks everyone.

    I should add that I am planning on two additional semester abroad programs during the non traditional sprint/fall semesters and I have already done one(this past winter). I'm going to start researching grad schools(seems like I just finnished looking at undergrad colleges!) and contact a few of them directly to ask about the age issue. That's a good idea to whoever suggested that.

    Heres another concern: I am not a 4.0 student. I'm probably in the 80ith percentile in the university (higher with just considering engineering) and I'm concerned that my subpar(by CC standards, not real world) GPA might get some odd looks. IE why'd you rush through college and not even do that well. My response is that I would have completed all of the rigorous math/science/engineering and didn't take the GPA boosting humanities(although I have a minor in history) and social science courses NOT required by the curriculum. I don't want to start a fight about this but IMO most humanities and social science courses are easier than alot of math/science/tech courses... and this is coming from a student currently enrolled in a 400 level history course to complete her history minor.

    It's good to see so many of you with experiences with graduating early. I don't see 20 as that young... I've made the transition to undergrad fine: I pledged a sorority, made lots of friends, joined numerous organizations-holding office in one... etc, etc... but I think I'm ready to move on. Kind of like been there, done that, now lets move on to something more interesting.

    Thanks again.
    I look forward to more responses.
  • josephinejosephine Registered User Posts: 226 Junior Member
    Yeah, as everyone said, if you can graduate early and want to then go for it. That's what I'm doing and I have no regrets at all. However, depending on the field, it can be a disadvantage for graduate school, though I think for engineering that wouldn't be true, and I doubt that it would have any effect on the way people look at your GPA. Be prepared though to have people question your decision, my parents fought me when I decided to graduate early and people now frequently tell me that I have missed out on the proper college experience, etc. Ignore them. Good luck.
  • HImomHImom Registered User Posts: 32,016 Senior Member
    I know several folks who have graduated early--sometimes because they arrived at school with lots of AP credits, sometimes for financial reasons. In any case, it IS important to be able to figure out what YOU want & how to get it. If you really want grad school, I agree that contacting them is a good idea. If your GPA isn't competitive for the grad schools you're considering, you may try to figure out if there are ways to give it a boost, if that is possible (possibly independent research under profs in your major or similar--experience, research, good teacher contact & often good grades).
    Good luck in shorting thru your choices. I know if my son chose many other schools, he would be able to graduate a year or more early. With USoCal's engineering program, most of his AP credits don't count toward engineering, so he may stay the whole 4 years. I'd honor his choice.
  • originaloogoriginaloog Registered User Posts: 2,645 Senior Member
    I believe that you will have absolutely no problem with grad school admittance at age 20. However if you are enjoying your undergrad live so far you might consider several options. Because engineering curricula are more focused that a liberal arts degree, use that extra year to broaden your education by taking extra non-technical electives or spending a semester studying abroad.

    Another option is to begin your graduate studies next year. Many universities allow excellent students to be admitted into a graduate degree program as early as junior year. A MS degree requirements can normally be completed in 2 or 3 semester and you seem capable of doing this too. Our son is intending to do this because his 4 year scholarships will cover most of his tuition and he would almost certainly get financial support for the one extra semester of study.
  • maritemarite Registered User Posts: 21,586 Senior Member
    My freshman S has enough AP credits for Advanced Standing, but, like most of his classmates in the same situation, he has opted not to activate the option. He recently talked to his undergraduate concentration advisor and will begin taking graduate classes perhaps next year, at the latest in his junior year. If he chooses, he may graduate with a BA/MA degree in four years, but I think he will opt to take electives in different fields.
  • HImomHImom Registered User Posts: 32,016 Senior Member
    At USC & several other schools, they do have a program where engineers selected for the program can get a bacehlor's & masters in 5 years. If that's an interest, you can see if your school has that as an option as well, as was said. It can be really broadening to try some other things as well, but it's all up to what makes YOU happy & excited & motivated.
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