|Year of Entry: 1994
||Age at Entry: 13
||Hometown: Rego Park, New York
Nothing To Lose
At 13 years old, I had nothing to lose. I was accepted into the top specialized high school in New York City, and an entry to an Ivy League university was practically guaranteed. Throughout my pre-teen years, I had taken classes for gifted children and attended John’s Hopkins Center for Talented Youth (CTY) program. Approximately six months before my middle school graduation, I received an invitation to consider skipping high school by joining the Program for the Exceptionally Gifted (PEG) at Mary Baldwin College. I was intrigued and eager to visit the campus. When my parents and I visited MBC, we saw how nurturing the environment was, providing PEG students with a fine balance between education, assimilation, and pure enjoyment. The school understood that as budding teenage girls, having strong social support was just as important as getting a good education. The decision to attend MBC was an easy one for me. I could defer my high school admission another year and "see how it goes." If it went well, I would stay, and if it wasn’t for me, I could always return to New York. One year later, I returned to the Big Apple, but to attend New York University – not high school. Four years later, I graduated from NYU’s Stern School of Business with a degree in finance and economics. Fast forward 12 years to 2011, and I am now a director of global research and analysis for a major financial firm, an internationally published author with three best-selling financial books, a frequent contributor to CNBC, and a sought after speaker who travels around the world teaching regular people how to invest and trade.
Graduating Four Years Early Made Me Stand Out From The Crowd
None of this would have been possible without PEG. Even though my time at PEG was short, it opened doors for me in more ways than I could have imagined, and PEG continues to be a defining part of my profile, education, and career. The reason why NYU considered my transfer is because they felt if I was smart enough to skip high school and attend MBC’s program, I would be smart enough for their school. Although NYU is a well-respected school, it is not Harvard, Stanford, or Yale. In the cut throat world of finance, every bit of differentiation counts. The fact that I prominently displayed "Graduated College at 18" at the top of my resume landed me a number of interviews with top tier investment banks even though there were plenty of graduates out there with higher GPAs who were from more prestigious schools and had more high profile internships. JPMorgan was one of the first companies to offer me a job, and everyone in my analyst group that year was from a top Ivy League university. Throughout the interview process and my time at JPMorgan, there was no question that graduating college at 18 landed me the job, and I have PEG to thank for that. Investment banks and any other corporate institution for that matter want to hire potential leaders that do not fit the typical cookie cutter mold. Seeing that I graduated at 18 spoke volumes about my intelligence and made me someone they wanted to meet. I am sure parents all know that getting your foot in the door is the hardest part of finding a job and building a career. Being an early graduate has made that process 100 times easier for me. Breaking barriers early in my life also made me realize true leaders know obstacles are made to be overcome. More specifically, I have never believed in the proverbial “glass ceiling”. Few women make it on Wall Street, and I am one of them. My courage to do so was molded by my experience at PEG, and my parents’ willingness to take a leap of faith in me and the program.
Graduating Four Years Early Gave Me A Great Deal Of Flexibility
It was not an easy road however. When I first started NYU, I was a pre-med major. At the time, I had no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up, and my parents encouraged me to be a doctor. At NYU, we were required to take courses in other fields outside of our majors and that was when I discovered my love for markets and economics. Switching a major two years into college can be a risky bet and time consuming endeavor, but I had earned four years, and I knew I could afford the extra time. As a result, I transferred to the business school at NYU and tacked on an extra year to my college career. I faced a similar crossroad when I was 22. Having worked at JPMorgan for a number of years, I wanted to work for a more entrepreneurial company (during the tech boom) and thought hard about whether I wanted to leave my cushy job for a Wall Street startup. Once again, the time I earned by skipping high school afforded me the extra flexibility to experiment and find a company and a job that I really loved. Most of my friends were 26 at the time and had unsatisfying jobs, but they were afraid to leave and restart their careers. Once again, I have PEG to thank for offering me this opportunity and flexibility later in my life. Now I have a career and a job that I truly love.