Simon’s Rock Early College

Great Barrington, MA: When I went to college after tenth grade, many of my former classmates wrongly assumed that I had gone to a boarding school. I’ve grown accustomed to explaining that it’s possible for me to be 17-years-old and a sophomore in college.

Until a couple of years ago I was not aware that there were alternatives to the traditional public school system. As a sophomore in high school, I came across Bard College at Simon’s Rock, a liberal arts school in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. This institution offers students the unique opportunity to begin college after their sophomore or junior year of high school. I’ve wanted to become a writer since I was very young. This ambition brought me to Simon’s Rock for the Young Writers Workshop and serendipitously led to my enrollment in its early college. There I learned to organize my thoughts and write essays and stories in many genres.

Simon’s Rock has a superb faculty; every class I’ve taken has been an engaging experience. Professors use a roundtable format that lends itself to lively discussions. Because the classes are small, teachers are very approachable, and collaborating with them is easy and organic.

Those at Simon’s Rock have helped me mature as a thinker and opened my mind to new ways of looking at things. This is a small community that brings together students from diverse cultures, nationalities, and backgrounds. We have gotten to know one another very well – one of the advantages of the small class size. The environment allows me to mingle with people of many interests whom I would not have been exposed to otherwise. Two of my housemates, for example, are expert ceramicists, and I’ve developed a sincere appreciation of their art.

Conversations about issues ranging from politics, to religion, art and literature have been the best part of campus life. Everyone brings a fresh perspective to the table. Over the course of these two years, my class has become my family.

Simon’s Rock is not the only school that offers higher education to younger students. Another program is the Bard High School Early College in New York City. Ambitious teenagers may benefit from these options if their high school education isn’t helping them reach their potential. High schools put a lot of emphasis on preparing students for standardized tests. This practice leaves much to be desired as students rush to answer multiple-choice questions to beat the ticking clock. And the pressure placed on teachers to ensure their students succeed on these exams limits their ability to hold open discussions, digress from the curriculum, and allow students to explore ideas.

I was fortunate to have stumbled onto Simon’s Rock. I’ve returned to my former high school several times during breaks and found that even some teachers and guidance counselors are unfamiliar with the concept of early college. National Public Radio recently did a segment that described the college and its curriculum in depth. This publicity captured the attention of several students in the class below mine, and ultimately led to their enrollment.

I’d like more students to be aware of the fact that their high school is not the only option out there. If you’re a motivated teenager looking to enhance your education, visit Simon’s Rock, sit in on a class, and consider whether starting college early is right for you. As Joel and Ethan Coen, two famous Simon’s Rock alums, wrote in their Academy award-winning film “No Country for Old Men,” “You stand to win everything.” See more at simons-rock.edu.