College days come early

Published 10:55 am Thursday, June 4, 2009

It wasn’t exactly culture shock, but when Jacob Wilson walked into his first college class, he knew he wasn’t in high school anymore.

“It wasn’t what I expected. My class was full of people between 25 and 35 years old. I had just turned 16 in August,” Wilson said. “I felt very out of place. It was kind of scary.”

But buckling down and persevering in this new environment for the next two years has pushed Wilson far and away ahead of his Rock Hill classmates.

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As he walked across the stage at the high school last month to get his diploma, he already had two years of college under his belt. This fall Wilson will start Ohio University Southern as a college junior and has received a full four-year scholarship there.

This drive to succeed academically started early and at home.

“Mom and Dad always pushed me since I was little,” he said. “It was pretty much expected at my house I get good grades. They pushed and helped me.”

Yet his parents guiding philosophy was that their son simply strive.

“As long as I did my best my mom was proud,” he said. However it was Wilson who put pressure on himself, always wanting a high grade point average. That desire paid off when his scholastic effort enabled him to start college in his junior year of high school.

If a student passes all five parts of the Ohio Graduation Test and is in the top 25 percent of his class, he can take placement tests at Ohio University. That can lead to a student going to college during his junior and senior years of high school.

“I got the opportunity to go to college. It seemed like everything paid off,” Wilson said.

The young man candidly admits taking his first college exam was a daunting experience.

“I was terrified, but when I took the test, it was like any other test. You study for it and you will do fine,” he said. “The biggest difference with college is you have so much responsibility. If you don’t turn in your homework, there’s no detention. You will not have to sit in the corner. In high school people are there because they have to be there. College is where you want to go and you are paying your own money. The time is more precious.”

Over the past two years Wilson has gotten his basic college requirements out of the way. Now he wants to start focusing on the field where he sees his career: psychology.

It’s a discipline that Wilson has dabbled in as an interested amateur.

“I found I kind of play a game in my head when I talk to people I am constantly trying to figure out why they do this … what drives them to do something,” he said.

This head start on college has come with a price for Wilson who admits he missed the chance to participate in the usual round of high school activities his friends did for the past two years.

“You don’t get to participate in as many things. You don’t have time and it is hard to stay in contact,” he said. “But I am really better off.”

As far as advice for others teens considering his path, Wilson says success revolves around motivation and confidence.

“You have to be sure of your own abilities. Don’t doubt yourself,” he said. “Things get tough and you think you want to quit, but you have to keep pushing.”