What graduating early showed me about growth

Jaden Welch-Jani, guest writer

 The first question I usually get asked when people hear I am graduating early is “How?” 

I have always been interested in learning about different subjects, so I took classes over the summers and outside of school which eventually helped satisfy my credit requirements. However I think the more important question is not how I am graduating early, but “Why?” Why do this extra work, and why lose out on my last year of high school?

Fundamentally, the answer has to do with growth. 

I want to start out by saying that my ability and readiness to graduate has everything to do with the support I have received from my teachers over the past three years. Through my classes and clubs, I have been taught to push myself and step out of my comfort zone. For example, I came into high school as a reluctant and nervous public speaker, but I was encouraged through Model UN and Debate to develop my confidence and become a more effective leader.

I have greatly appreciated and valued my time here at South. I could have continued down the regular high school path, and I’m sure I would have enjoyed my senior year. But when I asked myself – “Is that what you want to do?” – I realized that I was ready for new challenges, new independence, and new opportunities to grow as a person.

It wasn’t an easy decision. Until partway through the first semester of my junior year, I had no idea that I was going to graduate early – it hadn’t even crossed my mind. At the same time, though, I had come to a point where I was struggling to find meaning in the things I was doing. As much as I have always enjoyed my classes and activities here at South, I felt like in order to be happy I needed to grow in new ways and work toward catalyzing real, hands-on change. 

Making up my mind was a difficult process, and when I was finally certain that graduating early was the right choice, I had very little time before the Regular Decision deadline for most schools.   

My parents and I discussed whether it made sense to apply to any colleges, or just take a gap year. I knew I was opening myself up to rejection applying in such a short time and with one fewer year of high school, but I also knew that if I wanted to give myself the most opportunities, I needed to take the risk. 

I’d like to say I de-stressed the college process, but in reality I just condensed all the stress into two grueling weeks over winter break. Yet I managed to scrape together some applications, and from there I just had to wait. 

I was, of course, ecstatic when I found out that I was accepted to the University of Pennsylvania to study Economics and International Relations. Regardless of the results, though, the process of re-evaluating my priorities and allowing myself to make the best choice for my own growth was invaluable.

So if there’s any message to take from my story, it’s this: when you come to a fork in the road, choose growth. Join that new club or sport. Talk to someone new. Enroll in that class that you find really interesting but worry might be too hard.

If you’re feeling stuck, change something and push yourself. Don’t hold yourself back from your full potential. Put your happiness and personal growth first, and you can’t go wrong.