I had a lovely reader (hi Jennifer!) notice that JP is in his senior year of college which is also his 3rd year of college, and said:
I would love to hear more about how he did it and how it is going doing it like that. Do you think your other kids will try to do the same?
So how did JP graduate high school at age 18 and how will he graduate from college at age 21?
Short answer - he's a smarty pants. He went through his whole childhood with a book in hand:
Long answer - in high school, JP completed seven AP courses, three in his Junior year and four in his Senior year. AP "Advanced Placement" courses are college-level courses taught in high school. When I was in high school, we did not have AP classes, but we had Honors classes and then students had the option to take the AP Exam at the end of the year. At our Catholic high school, if you take an AP class, you automatically take the AP Exam at the end of the course (for a fee of $97). If you score well on the AP Exam then colleges will give you college credit for that class, and you don't have to take it in college.
This part gets tricky because even a top score on an AP Exam may not translate into college credit depending on the college "rules". For example, JP got a 4 on the AP Bio Exam (top score is a 5) and if he went to Providence College as a biology major, they would have made him take all of his biology classes and labs no matter how well he did on the AP Exam. Franciscan University however, gave him credit for two Biology classes based on his score and that allowed him to start in Bio 201 and not Bio 101, which saved a whole year of Bio classes.
So you basically have to learn the colleges rules on AP scores and credits and factor that into your college decision. It's hard also because you end up taking most AP exams senior year, and not getting your scores until July and by then you've already decided on a college and just have to hope it all works out.
We feel like what's the point of taking a college course in high school, doing really well on the exam, and then NOT getting college credit for it? Like the whole point of pushing oneself to take the AP course is to get the college credit and thereby shorten the amount of time spent in college, because you already learned it in high school. So finding a college that feels the same way is important to us.
JP also applied for, and was selected to be part of a grant that allowed about 20 high school students to take five Cyber Security classes at a local college, and have a summer internship. He did this over his Sophomore/Junior years of high school and was able to transfer four of those course credits to Franciscan as electives.
When we realized all of the credits he had between his AP Exams and his Cybersecurity classes, he figured out with his college advisor that he could graduate in three years, including spending one of those semesters studying in Austria where they have no science classes, as long as he took a grueling schedule for those other 2.5 years and completed one Biology course plus Lab over the summer.
JP has truly hard a very difficult course load. He had to take Physics as a Freshman as well as a lot of other upper level classes in order to fit in all of his major requirements and a semester in Austria. He said he really learned how to study that year. JP started dating a girl and making friends with other freshman who are now going to have another year on campus after he graduates. He didn't work at all on campus because of his workload, so money is always tight until he can make enough over breaks. And finally, his GPA is lower than it should be because all of those AP credits and transfer credits (he got all A's) only translate into satisfying credits and not counting towards his GPA.
Obviously the biggest plus of finishing college faster than four years is the tuition savings. JP also gets to move on to the next step sooner than his classmates, and since his future involves years of schooling, this puts him on a trajectory to start earning money in his career a year sooner. It also looks impressive on a medical school application (we hope) to accomplish all he did in a short time. I believe JP matured and became a more serious student, focused on his future goals by doing it this way as well.
So, Was it Worth It?
Current JP would say no. He had a really difficult course load, would love to stay at Franciscan for another year, and will miss his friends when he graduates and they stay on campus. Future JP will be grateful that he saved a whole year of tuition and has a gap year to work in patient care and study for his MCATS before applying to medical and/or PA schools. Taking a year to work and gain experience seems to be the trend that college graduates have to follow before applying to these schools nowadays.
Will Our Other Kids Do the Same?
Andrew will be at college for four years. He did not take as many AP classes, so he only got 12 college credits for the ones he took. He is also not 100% sure of his major (currently Biology) and I could see him switching at some point, like his mother did. He also wants to travel abroad to Austria and was the lucky recipient of some big scholarships that make his four years at Franciscan very affordable! Eamon and Maggie are the type of students that could probably at least skip a semester with their AP course loads, but we shall see. JP did not make it look like an easy way to go through college, so I think they are a bit scared to try to finish in 3 years. And the little boys are just too little to even think about college right now. We hope at least one of them foregoes the whole college route and becomes an electrician or mechanic or plumber instead...our family could use one of those :)