Friday, November 7, 2008

Is 16 Old Enough For College?

I read an article just this morning about New Hampshire trying to pass state legislation to allow 16 year olds to graduate from high school (assuming the pass all the required testing to meet graduation standards). Their rationale is to allow students to work at their own pace and, if they are properly prepared, go off to start their higher education two years sooner.

I have to wonder: is 16 old enough for college?

I think about myself back in high school. I was a top student, member of the National Honor Society, and graduated with a 95% grade point average (5th of a class of 252 students). I worked hard in school and had an aptitude for education and tests. But was I ready to start high school back when I was 16? I don't think so.

See, there are two sides of college life - the educational rigors and the maturity to be off on your own, to make your own decisions and to take care of one's self in all aspects of life. At 16, I didn't even have my driver's license - that came the summer between my sophomore and junior year of high school. I think being able to get around on your own in a car is part of being able to take care of yourself, don't you? And, from what I hear, some states are increasing the age for driving from 16 to as late as 18. Also, there’s something to be said about getting more life experiences under your belt before choosing a career.

I then have to look at my son who is 13 now and in the 8th grade. Would he be ready for college in three years time? Sure, he can handle the school work - in courses that interest him. But does he have the life skills to be off on his own, taking care of himself? Not yet. We're working on those - but having five years as opposed to three gives us more time to get things down pat.

Now, I'm sure there are some very brilliant kids who have both the education and the maturity at 16 to handle the pressures of college life. Hey, I remember Doogie Howser M.D. (Neil Patrick Harris rocks, by the way!). There is always exceptions to the rule. My concern is if the rule changes, are there going to be too many kids being pushed off to college earlier by parents who think their Johnny/Janie can handle it when perhaps they can't?

Time will tell.

Article: Should Kids Be Able to Graduate After 10th Grade


Jim McClain said...

I was ready at 16. My brother was not. That's why we have parents to make that decision for us before we're 18!

Martin Maenza said...

I have a feeling if my parents had that choice when I was growing up, they would have pushed both my older brother and myself to go early - and I doubt either of us was ready at 16 (even if I could have the test scores to say I was). I grew up a lot during my junior and senior years of high school - socially and such. If I had been thrust into college at 16, I think it would have been more sink than swim for me.