April 17, 2018
Bravo to you for looking down the road toward your future goals and on your determination to go to a good college and then to medical school. But, unless there are some extenuating circumstances that I'll explain in a minute, “The Dean" is going to encourage you to spend four years in high school rather than rushing off to college after eleventh grade. Why?
Well, for starters, college admission officials set more rigorous standards for younger applicants than they do for seniors. They want to be certain that the junior applicants have really solid reasons for leaving high school early, and they can be skeptical that eleventh graders are as mature and as well-prepared for college as the twelfth graders are. So, once you've selected several colleges to aim for, your admission odds may decline if you apply as a junior and not as a senior. (I'm not saying that you won't get in for sure, only that it will be harder, and some colleges have single-digit acceptance rates to begin with!)
Therefore, in order to maximize your chances for a range of college acceptances (and scholarships), your best bet is to complete four years of high school, taking the most rigorous classes you can handle. You will not be able to pack all of the most challenging classes into three years, so it's likely that your “competitor applicants" at the colleges that interest you will be submitting transcripts that include choices such as AP Physics C or AP Calculus BC, which you simply won't be able to get to in just three years. This means that your application will not be as strong as theirs. Staying in school for four years will also give you the best shot at demonstrating a long-term commitment to your extracurricular activities and at snagging those leadership roles that the college folks seem to love. In addition, some scholarships awarded by community groups, charitable foundations, etc., are only for seniors, and you may — or may not—be considered a senior for scholarship purposes if you graduate after eleventh grade.
Secondly, if you start college early, you will probably expect to start medical school early as well. And med-school admission officials can be even more wary of young applicants than the college admission officials are. Again, being young isn't an automatic deal breaker, but it could turn out to be a strike against you.
BUT ... as noted above, there are some sound reasons for leaving high school early and, if any of these apply to you, you can explain them to admission committees when the time comes. These reasons include:
If, after reading all of this, you are still determined to apply to college in eleventh grade, then here's some more reading for you ... a previous “Ask the Dean" column aimed at early grads.
So, what should you do now?
Good luck to you as you continue to follow your dreams. Write back when more questions come along.
If you'd like to submit a question to College Confidential, please send it along here.
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