All My Friends are High School Dropouts
Growing up, I had a good group of about 8 friends. We were all high academic achievers, loved school, and already had ideas about what we wanted to do when we became grown-ups. Of the 8 of us, only me and Kate, one of my oldest friends, actually graduated high school, and Kate only barely graduated. What happened? Why did so many of my friends drop out, with so much potential?
In the Skeptifem interview a few weeks ago, she gave this advice:
Dropping out of high school doesn’t mean you can’t go to college or have a good job; it just means you can do those things a lot faster. I did drop out of high school and went to college and ended up working in healthcare, and none of the bad things people threatened me with happened.
Every single one of my dropout friends did the same thing. High school was an experience they didn’t need.
Take my friend C.J., for instance. He was in public school until 5th grade, but then homeschooled until his freshman year of high school. During that time, he began working at the local museum, interacting with the public and teaching kids about science. He then tried to return to a non-traditional high school. He enjoyed his classes and trips there, but it wasn’t really teaching him anything. He wanted an academic challenge. He was also worn out by the social environment. While the other students were his age peers, he had very little in common with them. While other 15 year old boys wanted to talk girls and cars and whatever else the average 15 year old boy talks about, he wanted to talk about ancient civilizations and the vastness of the universe. Clearly, high school wasn’t going to help him grow much intellectually or socially. So, he dropped out, officially return to his “homeschooler” status. He started taking classes at the local community college, and graduated at 18 with his Associate’s degree. He’s now transferred those credits and is finishing up his Bachelor’s.
Another friend, Lynn, stayed in high school until her junior year. Technically, she graduated early, but if you ask her, she’ll freely admit she dropped out. She’d entered high school young, coming from a homeschooling background. Despite being the youngest one in every single class, though, she quickly became one of the top students, taking AP classes all three years and acing them. She got sick of high school immaturity; she felt things were more important that what celebrities were doing or who was cute in the latest blockbuster movie or what clothes were in fashion. So, she accelerated her schoolwork and got out after her junior year. She’s now attending one of the top engineering schools in the country.
Two of my other friends technically aren’t drop-outs… they just did high school and college at the same time, walking away with a high school diploma and an Associate’s degree after 4 years. But their “high school” was a university, and their classes were all attended by undergraduate students, so they practically skipped high school all together.
Even I, the poster high school graduate, didn’t really complete high school. I only attended the high school I graduated from for my junior and senior years… before that, I had been a museum and virtual schooler. Basically, rather than attending a brick-and-mortar high school, I worked and took classes at the local museum, and took other classes online, getting AP and honors credit through a virtual public school.
For my friends and I, high school just wasn’t a rite of passage we needed to complete. All of us were socially mature at a young age, keeping up with graduate students a decade older. Coming from non-traditional or highly academic schooling backgrounds, high school didn’t really provide any new challenges or opportunities. We found ways to play the school system such that we could get to the colleges where we felt we’d be able to truly achieve. None of our potential was wasted by graduating early or dropping out; in fact, a good case could be made that skipping the usual 4 years of high school probably saved our enthusiasm for learning and reality.
But it’s not the track for everyone. Another friend of mine skipped high school entirely, enrolling in college at age 13. He wanted to study computer science, and so did. But now, at 19, he’s got a master’s degree and is an assistant professor. Now, that sounds awesome… until you realize that the undergraduates are the same age as him. In particular, the undergraduate girls are the same age as him. Derek has never been in a social group of people his own age. He’s never had a real girlfriend because there weren’t any girls around who could both keep up with him intellectually and not see him as a cute kid or a little brother. Now, when he’s finally found a person he likes and could actually date, he can’t because of teacher-student regulations. And there are other problems, too… he’s gone from a confident, intelligent, awesome kid to more of a stereotypically awkward genius nerd.
…And he’s still one of the ones who’s better off. I know of other students who dropped out of high school to go to college, then failed out either because they couldn’t handle the academics or they couldn’t handle the social scene. Now, they don’t know what to do with their lives, and I am not sure they’ll ever get back on track. There are even worse outcomes, too: frequently, kids who are accelerated or grade skipped too much are the ones who become suicidal, due to the high expectations and high stress. At least one of the three boys I mentioned in a previous Woo Zoo post committed suicide for that reason.
Still, I tend to agree with Skeptifem’s advice. If you, like my successful high school dropout friends, feel high school goes too slow, that the people who are supposed to be your peers are incredibly immature, if you’re sick of playing the public (or private) school game… find a way to make the system work for you, and get out. Go to college, or whatever environment lets you grow to reach your full potential. Traditional school is only the most common way- it’s far from the only one. Take the path that feels right for you.