The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
At the end of eighth grade, I got an opportunity to join the dual enrollment program at my future high school. Little did I know my decision to apply to this program would have such a large mental effect on my life five years down the road. This was a joint program with the local community college and by the end of my four year high school career, I graduated with a high school diploma and an Associate’s Degree in Liberal Arts. This decision I made when I was 14 years old is now coming into fruition and I am unsure about the next steps in my life.
I’m not going to lie, the decision I made five years ago was a great financial decision that my family and I made for my future. However, I will be graduating college at the ripe age of 20. As someone with a late birthday for my year in school, I’ve always felt younger than everyone else. The age difference between my classmates has always been overlooked academically because my family and I have always had high expectations for myself. These expectations are what pushed me to apply to the dual enrollment program. I wanted to prove to myself that I could not only do what everyone else was doing but I could push myself to work harder than the average student at my high school. After high school, I knew I was going to graduate from college in three years, but I didn’t realize how fast I would be expected to grow up.
Right now, I am in my second year at the University of Missouri – Kansas City. This statement is probably the most repetitive conversation that I have when I am talking about grade level. Obviously I am in my second year at UMKC but I’m taking junior level classes because of the amount of college credits I have earned in the past. However, people often get confused by the difference between a second-year student and a sophomore. In my head, when a person uses their year to describe their grade, it is to show the amount of experience they have had as a full time college student at a four-year university. When a person uses grade level names, this translates to the year that you’re planning on graduating. I like the differentiation because I have only experienced a year and a half of a full-time university, but I have experienced the courses equivalent to a junior.
The other frustration my eighth grade decision has caused me is the loss of opportunity and time available to stay as a young adult. Many students go to college not only for their education but they go for the experiences and learning opportunities available outside of the classroom. The number of leadership positions that I have been able to achieve would not have been possible without my access to university organizations. Not only have I had loads of campus resources available to me, I have also had many opportunities to grow my future career. Although there are many opportunities, I only have two summers in between graduating and one of them has already passed. I am trying to cram in as many opportunities as I can while I am here and I feel like I’m slowly drowning. I have weekly available opportunities for networking, site visits, work opportunities, and leadership roles at UMKC. There is a sense of urgency for me to attend all the events that I can, because otherwise, I may be missing a huge opportunity. As both a student and individual I am a perfectionist. With the loss of a year to attempt my goals, my perfectionist habit makes me afraid to fail or to make the wrong decision. Once the 2023-2024 school year starts, there is no “next year.” I don’t want to regret not attempting an opportunity because of fear of not putting in my full effort.
Obviously there are positives to graduating early. As an out-of-state student, I am paying $10,000 more in tuition than the average in-state student at UMKC. This means that I will be saving a year’s worth of tuition by staying on my three year plan. After earning my associate’s degree, the degree courses fulfilled my general education requirements. Without my gen ed courses, I was able to go directly to the courses that directly correspond with my degree program. And the best part about graduating early is that I will be done with school for the rest of my life, unless I decide to go to graduate school later on. Often when I say I hate school, it rubs others the wrong way. However, I am a firm believer that just because someone loves to learn, it does not mean they like school. Whenever I tell my mom “I hate school,” she always says back to me, “no you don’t, you like learning.” After her comment,I tell her that I love opening myself up to learning new things, trying new things, gaining new experiences, and creating opportunities for myself. However, I do not enjoy learning by creating endless amounts of to-do lists and completing weekly assignments, grades, projects, tests, exams and quizzes. This amount of work has been expected of me since I was five years old and I am so over it. I love learning, but sometimes school makes me hate it.
Graduating early might seem nice to people and I am proud to be able to say that I am graduating college in three years. I understand that I am very fortunate to have had the opportunity to earn a degree while in high school. I am excited to graduate next spring and hope that I accomplish what I would like to do before my time is over at UMKC. Always remember that every single student at every university has had to work towards being in the place that they are in. Every college student, no matter what age, degree program or hometown has gone through or is going through a tough time. I’m nervous to enter post-college life, but I’m making the most of my time to have lots to look forward to in the future.