Sixteen-year-old Danville student college-bound

August 11, 2003|HERB BROCK

Summer's coming to an end and 16-year-old Rachel Tapley of Danville is doing what a lot of young people her age do at this time of year - lining up supplies, reviewing wardrobes and undertaking other activities associated with the imminent reopening of school.

But while Rachel may be sharing many of the same get-ready-for-school experiences with other teenagers, there's one thing that is definitely different about her preparation for the fall - the kind of school for which she is getting ready.

While her friends will be returning to Danville High School on Tuesday, Rachel will be entering college next month. She is bypassing her junior and senior years at DHS to begin her freshman year at Centre College.

"I had some great teachers and classes at Danville, but I reached the decision, with my parents, that I was ready for the challenge of college," said Rachel, daughter of Dr. Sheldon Tapley, a Centre art professor, and Ann Silver, slide librarian at the college. "And I am looking forward to that challenge."


Rachel had been considering the idea of going to college early for a while but that interest grew serious when she took the PSAT last school year.

"I checked the box on the test that said please deluge me with information from different colleges," said Rachel with a laugh as she paraphrased the topic of the box. "And I did get mail."

Letter from Simon's Rock got her attention

The letter that really got her attention came from Simon's Rock College of Bard, a Massachusetts school associated with prestigious Bard College. Simon's Rock is an "early college," Rachel said, that specializes in providing higher education for outstanding high school students who are ready for college. Simon's Rock actively recruits such students.

Rachel was especially drawn to a full scholarship Bard offers high school sophomores. She applied for the full ride and, after taking the SAT and completing three essays, was selected as one of 30 finalists nationwide. She interviewed in Massachusetts and won the scholarship.

While thrilled about not only being accepted by a college but also receiving a scholarship, Rachel had mixed feelings, and so did her parents.

"I began thinking what a great distance Massachusetts was from home, that it might be a little far away for a 16-year-old," she said. "It would mean making too many adjustments. My parents had the same feelings."

However, Rachel was convinced that she was ready for college, just one closer to home.

She said she had to ask herself the question: "I had already been accepted by a very good college, so why should I go back to high school?"

The answer was applying to Centre.

"I practically have grown up on the Centre campus. I know a lot of the people here, and I know it is a wonderful college," said Rachel.

Centre offers an early admissions program

While Centre doesn't specialize in recruiting high school students like Simon's Rock, it does offer an early admissions program for a very select few high schoolers. Rachel applied to Centre and was accepted. In the meantime, she won approval from the DHS board of education to bypass her last two years of high school.

Even though she will be very close to her home on St. Mildred's Court, which is across Main Street from the Centre campus, Rachel believes she will be taking a long trip, academically at least.

"I really loved taking French and English at Danville, and I look forward to really delving into those areas when I go to Centre," said Rachel, who will go through freshman orientation at Centre Sept. 3 and begin classes Sept. 8. "I'm also very interested in studying art. While I was exposed to a lot of French and English in high school, I was unable to take as much art as I would have liked.

"In short, I may be close to home, but I will be traveling to and entering a whole new world in many ways."

But wouldn't Rachel like to take along a few DHS classmates as passengers on her trip?

"I will miss the day-to-day contact with my friends but I will be able to stay in touch with them," she said, adding that she will be "thinking about them a lot" as they return to classes at DHS without her on Tuesday. "It's an ideal situation: I'm able to move on academically but not away from my family and friends."

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