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Ready for College in High School? Consider Early College

Believe it or not, some kids are ready to finish high school and move on to college well before their senior year.  Bard College at Simon’s Rock: The Early College is one place that provides a program designed for students who want to begin college early.

A Unique Educational Opportunity

Often, “early college” refers to dual enrollment, where a student takes classes at a nearby college while still enrolled in high school. Other times, it’s going to college early, when a student enrolls in a four-year institution at a young age. But Bard College at Simon’s Rock: The Early College—known for attracting highly motivated and intellectually curious young students—stands apart from other early college programs: It is the only full-time, four-year B.A.-granting residential early college program for high school-aged students.

Most students enter this unique program during 10th or 11th grade (the average age at entry is 16) and fully matriculate into the program. “They can leave high school without a diploma and start college when they are ready,” says Cindi Jacobs, director of admission.

A Thirst for Learning

How do you know if your child is ready for this type of experience? The main characteristic of a typical Simon’s Rock candidate is one with a lifelong “thirst for learning,” says Jacobs. But that thirst doesn’t necessarily translate to a student with a perfect grade point average or an impeccable resume. “We have a very holistic admissions process, so while the majority of students come to us with a very strong GPA, we look at the whole picture,” says Jacobs.

While some of the students who enter Simon’s Rock are characterized as gifted or advanced, most are just ready to learn and willing to do the work. “It might be the student who is constantly asking questions in class,” explains Jacobs. “They want more depth. Maybe their high school teacher didn’t have the expertise to answer their questions or simply needed to move on due to the demands of standardized curricula and large classes,” which can be frustrating for some students.

In other cases, she explains, it could be the student who didn’t raise their hand during class, who was bored and restless, and hiding their curiosity in order to fit in. Or a student who has exhausted all the AP classes their high school has to offer and is hungry for more ways to deepen their knowledge and expand their intellect.

Passion and Drive

Jacobs describes the atmosphere at Simon’s Rock as one that focuses on in-depth and varied academic pursuits, with passionate, driven students. The classes are small, conversational and intimate, with students often continuing their spirited discussions even after class. The coursework is challenging and engaging; 95 percent of faculty hold the highest degree in their field.

“Students work hard here and are encouraged to vigorously pursue what interests them,” says Jacobs. “Simon’s Rock provides students an enormous degree of academic, social, and career support and a broad range of opportunities to explore at the exact moment when they are ready for more.”

A Nurturing Environment

But the environment at the college is also nurturing, with a strong focus on students’ emotional development, says Moamer Alsaedi, a junior currently enrolled in the program. “Simon’s Rock gave me the space and opportunities to grow as a person,” he reflects. “I’ve been able to develop new interests that have helped shape me into a person who is confident in my beliefs and my intellect.”

In addition to the top-notch curriculum, the college offers a state-of-the-art athletic facility, including a swim team, basketball team, and soccer team. There are numerous clubs (and students are free to start their own), a pre-med society, an interfaith organization, and a LGBTQ club. The college offers study abroad programs at sought-after institutions like Oxford University in London, as well as opportunities in Spain, China, Russia, and more.

Students often spend their weekend exploring Great Barrington, Massachusetts, (a quick shuttle ride away), which boasts great farm-to-table restaurants, numerous cultural offerings, and stellar internship and after-college job opportunities.

Beyond Simon’s Rock

The school offers two undergraduate degree plans: the two-year A.A. option or the four-year B.A. option. Additionally, Simon’s Rock students can enter dual-degree programs through partnerships with Columbia University Engineering Program, Dartmouth University Engineering Program, and the Vermont Law School Environmental Policy Program. Simon’s Rock students can also enter the SUNY Upstate Medical Guaranteed Entrance Program without the requirement of taking the MCAT.

Whatever pathway students choose, they’ll have a strong foundation for their future academic pursuits, with most Simon’s Rock students completing a B.A. by age 20, and 80 percent entering graduate school. And yes, most alumni enter prestigious and intellectually fulfilling careers. But even more importantly, they can expect to grow exponentially as thinkers, innovators, and thriving members of society.

  • Founded: 1966
  • Undergraduates: 450
  • Student-Faculty Ratio: 8:1
  • Average Class Size: 11
  • Majors/Minors: 35+
  • Campus Organizations: 100+
  • Enrollment deadline (early action): Rolling
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