|Year of Entry: 2008
||Age at Entry: 14
||Hometown: Reston, Virginia
Life as I knew it was centered upon one thing — getting into Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (TJ), considered one of the top high schools in the country. Needless to say, being admitted to TJ was like winning the lottery.
The kids at my middle school were trained since birth to get into TJ. They were taught piano and violin as fetuses, weaned on genius juice, given math proofs instead of toys, and essentially raised as Fairfax County elites. Throughout my entire 8th grade year, it was all anyone could talk about — scoring high enough on the admissions test, joining enough clubs, and publishing enough patents. At that point, I deeply regretted being fed discount baby food. I wanted nothing more than to go to TJ, and I never would’ve thought there was another option.
Near the end of March, when the applications were submitted and we were all waiting on the fateful letters, I came across an article in The Washington Post titled “Young, Gifted, and Skipping High School.” Upon reading the header, I thought, “Oh, just another one of those genius kids in the news.” Certainly, not the best ego-booster at a time like this.
Then, I got curious and read further.
When I learned that the eponymous brain was one among many teenagers and pre-teens who skipped high school and went straight to college, my own mind was completely blown.
Was This Even Possible?
All my life, I had agonized over how long it took to get out of school. I would sit quietly in classrooms, wondering when I would finally be able to get out into the real world and do something I actually cared about. I tried visualizing myself going through the same thing for four years of high school, then four years of college, and then four to infinity more years of whatever else, and I felt defeated.
But then this came along.
After much consideration, I decided to do the crazy thing and apply. I figured that if I was already trying for a place I had no chance of getting into, it wouldn’t hurt to try for another place with similar prospects. I’d at least be confirming my imminent downfall.
When I received two acceptance letters in mid-April, I had no idea what to do.
This Wasn’t Supposed To Happen
I got mixed reactions from my friends and family when they found out. Some were overwrought with pride and gave genuine congratulations. Others were silenced by the news. Many doubted the legitimacy of such a program, warning me that I would miss out on so many things. That I would grow up too fast and not have a normal life. Soon, I began to feel like I was being avoided by my relatives and shunned by a lot of people I‘d thought I was close to.
I realized the decision would be one of the hardest I’d have to make. I doubted myself, wondering if I really would miss out on something important—something I would regret for the rest of my life.
Now, close to four years later, I feel like I can finally say that I’ve done the right thing. Next May, a few weeks after my 18th birthday, I’ll be graduating with a BS in psychology and have hopefully heard back from the medical schools I’ve applied to. The people I’ve met and the experiences I’ve had have erased my misconceptions about so many things. For one, I’ve found that the girls at the Program for the Exceptionally Gifted (PEG) at Mary Baldwin College hardly fit the savant-like stereotype. We were from all sorts of backgrounds with different interests, quirks, and passions. I saw no "geniuses." Just some people who wanted a better chance at a future of their own design.
As time went by, I came to understand why my friends and relatives acted the way they did four years ago. Deep down, I knew that any one of them could’ve done what I did, and do it much better. The thing was, I was the only one who was crazy enough to try; but, maybe it wasn’t crazy after all. Even if I don’t get into medical school next year, I will have saved myself four years of figuring things out when I had already known what I wanted to do.
In the end, I’ve made some friendships that I’ll always be thankful for, including the one with a former roommate — the girl I had read about in the very newspaper article that brought me here. If nothing else, I’ve learned that things tend to happen for a reason — even when they’re not what you planned.