Early college admissions rare

standards rigorous

August 11, 2003|HERB BROCK

At least two area teenagers have decided not to return to their respective high schools this fall. And they are doing it proudly. Proud of leaving high school early?

The two students are not your typical "dropouts." Yes, they are "dropping out" of high school but that's because they are dropping into college.

The two young people who are starting college early are from Danville High School: Rachel Tapley, daughter of Centre College professor Sheldon Tapley and librarian Ann Silver, who has left DHS after her sophomore year to attend Centre; and Sarah Jordan, daughter of Mary Lynn McCollough and stepdaughter of Centre professor Tom McCollough, who has departed DHS after her junior year and also is going to Centre.

In addition, a student at Lincoln County High School currently has an application before the Lincoln County Board of Education to leave school early so he or she can skip her senior year to attend college, an LCHS official said. The official declined to identify the student for "privacy and confidentiality" reasons.


A fourth area teenager who has left her high school early is Megan Lewis, daughter of Karin Lewis. Megan skipped her senior year at Boyle County High to spend the year studying in France as part of an exchange program. However, Megan has completed her high school graduation requirements.

These four students represent a tiny percentage of the more than 3,000 freshmen, sophomore and junior students in the eight area high schools. Students applying and being accepted for early college admissions are rare, as are those who complete their high school graduation requirements a year early to pursue study abroad.

A two-step process

High schoolers seeking early admissions to college generally follow a two-step process, both of which may proceed simultaneously.

One of the two steps is for a student to receive parental permission and approval from the high school principal and the board of education.

"In order to bypass their junior or senior year, a student and his or her parents or guardian must fill out the appropriate forms and those forms must be approved by the principal, with advice from counselors and teachers, and then by the board of education," said Nellie Shelton, a guidance counselor at DHS.

Doug Lester, a guidance counselor at BCHS, said the same screening process is done by BCHS officials and the Boyle board.

The students who leave early for college leave behind transcripts showing courses and grades completed up to the point when they leave, the two counselors said. In most cases over the years, the few students who left the two high schools early bypassed their senior year but completed most, if not all, of their requirements for graduation. Rachel Tapley, who is leaving after her sophomore year, is a "very rare" case, Shelton said. However, even if they have completed all of their requirements, the early departing students won't receive diplomas or be officially declared graduates.

"In the case of (former BCHS senior-to-be) Megan (Lewis), she had completed her requirements for graduation, through the courses she took here and through correspondence courses," said Lester. "Her transcript will show this information, although it won't indicate that she completed her senior year here."

The other step in the process leading to an early admission to college is getting accepted by the college that the student wants to attend. Many of the more selective private colleges around the country have early admissions programs but admissions are limited to a very few candidates, according to J. Carey Thompson, dean of admissions and student financial planning at Centre.

"It's unusual to have two students apply from Danville, or most any other high school, in the same year and very unusual for both to be accepted," said Thompson, referring to Rachel and Sarah.

Sarah and Rachel had to meet rigorous requirements to be admitted, Thompson said, without citing specifics about either admissions case.

"We want to know that they are outstanding students who have taken demanding curricula and done well in those courses," he said. "They also must be strong testers."

In addition, Thompson said that early admissions applicants also must "demonstrate in interviews and in evidence from those recommending them that they are socially, emotionally as well as intellectually ready to handle a college environment.

"Early applicants typically are young people who feel like they have reached the point in high school where they are just treading water," he said. They are looking for, needing a challenge. When we look at them, we want to be as sure as possible that they have what it takes to meet that challenge."

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