I have spent most of life going to fairly small schools. For the first couple of years of my life up until 6th grade, I had gone to a private school with only 26 students in our grade. I then went on to my first public school experience with probably about 200-300 students. It was still a manageable population. My first year onto high school was the worst. I was in a new city, a new environment, and surrounded by a population of 1,000 kids per grade. It was a game-changer.
Next year, I transferred to a smaller high school with a population of about 100 per grade. Life was good. Except our high school has a new program-- a dual-enrollment program with a community college so you would take college classes and high school classes. This would allow you to finish two years of a UC or any university before even getting there. You apply as a freshman and have junior level standing.
However, after being at UCLA, I have found many people in the same situation. We're not special. We're just like everyone else. Two years off of college doesn't mean anything--we only thought it did.
Here's why some would argue that I wasted my time:
1. I could have taken an exit exam.
After your sophomore year or even junior year, you can take an exit exam for high school. Once you pass that, you can enroll in a community college and start to work on your Bachelor's and Associate's degree at the age of 15! Stressful? Not really. Community college professors are equivalent to experts in their field and really help you understand concepts, unlike most high school teachers. Also, community colleges have so many resources to support students--free tutoring, fairs, and lots of health services!
Taking an exit exam would have also allowed me to skip the SAT, SAT subject tests and all that crap. After all standardized testing does not and should not define you. I honestly wish I had known this sooner because the SAT era was way too stressful.
You transfer to your college. Often times, transfer rates are higher than freshman admissions rates and you have a better chance of getting into your desired school.
The exit exam is not hard, at all. It requires a bit of focus, studying, and determination to complete (way fewer hours than the SAT or ACT).
A negative might be that you miss out on a high school experience, which brings me to my next point.
2. I could haven taken a lot of AP's and college classes at a normal high school and received junior or sophomore standing.
Many of my friends, while in high school, took many AP classes. Although AP's don't get you to junior level standing usually, they do get you to sophomore status. However, I would often run into friends taking college classes during their school year (to replace AP classes or for college credit) or during the summer, ending up with junior standing as well. Prom, homecoming, lacrosse, Key Club, Piccolo--all would have still been in the package if I stayed at high school.
3. Most people end up spending 3 years anyways (even transfers).
There's no such thing as "two years" in undergrad. Many people who transfer in usually always spend more than two years. You're picking the education route that you want to go down for the rest of your life---this is it! It takes a while to figure out what you want and because you want to try everything, you get caught up in enjoying all that's good in the world.
Many of friends from my own high school--especially those in STEM--spend three years at their respective universities. Once you're there, you don't want to leave. You want to enjoy your undergrad. You want to research, start clubs, write, and perform--you can't do all of that in two years! (You could, but it's hard!)
Those who have longer majors (STEM-based usually) are there for easily three years.
4. I was limited to what I could take and do.
At my high school, I wasn't allowed to take certain college classes like those that were online or hybrid (half online, half in class), or other normal ones before or after a certain point. This really put on the strain on many students who couldn't take necessary classes and needed to wait. Moreover, many students could not take certain classes after a certain year in high school--which was only a restriction set by my high school, For example, we were not allowed to take Introduction to Political Science until we had taken U.S. Government at the high school level. Many of my friends from other high schools were allowed to take classes like that whenever and obtained junior standing just as easily, so why were we restricted? Who knows.
If I was asked, do I regret it? I don't really know what I would say.
I guess I could say yes because my high school teachers were so focused on "preparing me for college" that they never really did, ironically. I was so anxious in high school, completing assignments that were never completely explained or skills that were never taught that I just had to figure out along the way (which made my life a lot harder than it needed to be). In my community college classes, teachers would skip lectures just to spend an entire class explaining citations and other crucial skills to students. My associate's degree that I got before graduating high school at the age of 17 is pretty much irrelevant. I always forget to mention it in interviews or put it on my resume because all of my abilities shine the same even with my degree on there. Can I do anything with my associate's degree? No, not really. It's just kind of a bragging-right that doesn't get me much of anywhere.
My community college courses were something I looked forward to every day--amazing professors, new environments, articulated learning, and support everywhere. I would get excited to enroll every quarter trying to find the best professors and the most interesting classes offered. It's something I miss now that I'm at UCLA.
However, I don't regret much because I did make a lot of friends in high school and had great experiences, which made me who I am today. Yeah, if I didn't go to high school I would have missed out on the traditional high school experience but as I mentioned before, you could have gone to a normal high school and had the same outcome. Graduation, prom, new friendships, weird lunch trips are all memories I definitely cherish and are a part of me. They have all taught me so much whether it was a moment or a person.
I think as a society we are stuck to the standardizations that we put everyone through. 4 years of education, then another, then another, then another. When someone deviates, it's refreshing, but the deviation can also be counterintuitive to their experience and growth as an individual which is something to keep in mind while reading this article.
If you are keen on obtaining higher standing in college before entering, instead of enrolling into a middle college high school, it might just be more effective to go to a normal high school (get in your "high school experience") and then take an exit exam and enroll into your local community college. (Or enroll in a middle college high school and dip after your sophomore year).
Also, s/o to the Chancellor of College of the Canyons Community College featured in this photo next to me.