Young teens trade high school for college life at ASU

November 30, 2021

45 students aged 16 or under are pursuing higher education; Here are some of their stories

Students find their way to Arizona State University at many points in their lives — right out of high school, transferring from community college, or mid-career.

A group of students pursue studies at ASU instead of going to high school. The university has 45 students age 16 or younger who attend campus or through ASU Online.

Here are some of their stories:

A second generation solar devil

West Campus student Valerie Tan, 15, is the second in her family to attend ASU. His mother, Daphnie Chong, is also an ASU graduate.

Chong went to ASU 20 years ago. Her husband, who is in the Singapore Air Force, was posted to Luke Air Force Base under a partnership program. The family moved back to Singapore after Chong earned a degree in communications, but then moved back to Arizona, where Chong had Valerie. In 2019, they returned.

“We were deciding between going to college and going to high school because I was 13 at the time,” Tan said. “I decided to try high school first to see if I liked it.”

After a few months, she decided high school wasn’t for her. The education system in Singapore is very advanced.

“She was like, ‘I learned this at home,’ Chong said. ‘There was nothing new, especially in the key areas of math, English and science.’

But she enjoyed her electives in Speech and Debate and Childhood Education. Singapore schools do not offer elective courses.

So in 2020, Tan started classes at Estrella Mountain Community College.

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“It was very different from high school, and I really liked the independent aspect of it, where you take responsibility for your own classes and grades,” Tan said. “I felt like I could control what I was doing and take more ownership of my work.”

Tan always intended to transfer to ASU, which she did this year, majoring in psychology.

“It’s always been something I’ve been interested in since I was young,” she said.

After earning a psychology degree from ASU, Valerie would like to return to Singapore for higher education.

“I would like to be a psychologist, and that’s something I’m working towards,” she said. “It is a profession that is growing in popularity and also in need.”

Chong said the practice of psychology is not as prominent in Asia as it is in Western societies.

“She would like to fight this stigma that it’s wrong to talk about your emotions and how you feel,” she said.

Chong, who drops off and picks up Tan from campus, was a little worried about her daughter going to a big college.

“We didn’t know if she would fit in, being in a totally different culture,” she said. “She is thrown into a new country and a new environment that has fewer Asian faces. So we were like, ‘Go with the flow.’ »

What’s it like to be 15 on campus?

“So far so good,” Tan said. “If other students know I’m younger, they don’t look down on me in any way. They always appreciate what I have to say and treat me like a regular student.

“On West Campus, there are students of different ages. I have a classmate who is 41 years old.

Tan is at Barrett, The Honors College, which has been a great way to attend events and meet other students.

Chong says her daughter is thriving at ASU because she is “an old soul.”

“Ever since she was very young, she’s had this very demanding attitude in her,” she said. “She’ll tell you what’s right, what’s wrong, what she likes and what she doesn’t like.

“She has her own mind.”

Fifteen-year-old Valerie Tan (left) and her mother, Daphnie Chong, on ASU’s West Campus, where Tan is majoring in psychology. Chong is an ASU alumnus who graduated in communications two decades ago. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News

Reconciling school and life

Christian Armanti, who is 13, started attending Mesa Community College when he was 10 years old.

“I started in regular primary school with kindergarten, kindergarten, first grade,” he said. “I skipped third grade and went to fourth, but the exams already showed that I was ready for college.”

Armanti’s mother then home-schooled him before he started at Mesa Community College, where he earned an associate’s degree in applied science.

He started at ASU in 2020, when learning was remote due to the pandemic, so this semester is his first on campus in Tempe, where he’s majoring in communications with a minor in music performance.

“The first week was a bit difficult because of my age, when everyone was looking at me,” he said. “But now my classmates are getting used to it and I had a really good experience.”

Armanti found a creative outlet by participating in ASU’s mariachi ensemble.

“It’s a lot of fun being around other people who are more musically knowledgeable than me,” he said. “It will help me grow as a musician.”

The music helped him create a balance.

“It can’t just be school and no fun,” he said.

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Armanti’s parents have been big supporters.

“My mom takes me to campus, and both parents helped me decide on my class schedule,” he said. “They really supported me in everything.”

Armanti’s ultimate goal is to become a neurosurgeon.

What would he say to other young teenagers who are considering skipping high school and going straight to college?

“I would tell them that they have to be very focused on their goal and have to know what they want to do and have a plan to achieve that goal,” he said. “You have to keep a balance and an organized schedule.”

A career in space

A young man sits at his computer desk, leans his chin on his fist and looks at the camera

Isaiah Watson, 15, who lives in Florida, is an ASU Online student and wants to start a space transportation business.

Isaiah Watson hopes to have his own business one day, and he’s majoring in global logistics management as an ASU Online student.

Watson, who lives in Niceville, Fla., with his mother and grandmother, started ASU Online this summer when he was 15 years old.

“There really was no need to skip classes,” he said. “I’ve been home-schooled since fourth grade and had met all of Florida’s requirements for high school graduation by age 14.”

Because he wants his business to be related to space exploration and transportation, he wants to direct his major towards software engineering.

“In my spare time, I like to code and make games related to transport, rockets and mechanics,” he said. “I also like to study these subjects outside the classroom.”

Watson said that as an online student a lot of people don’t realize he’s 15, but when he did group projects on Zoom, “everyone I’ve been in class with and who discover that I am a young student support me”.

Like other young students, he benefits from family support.

“My mom is certified as a life and wellness coach and always helped me manage my time even before I was accepted into ASU,” he said.

“We evaluate the courses I need to take and plan my time before each semester. My team of academic advisors and my success coaches for the past two semesters have also been a great help.

Watson had some practical advice for other young teens who want to pursue an education:

“If you want to pursue a major that has higher admission requirements, review the AP exams and take the CLEP tests, whether it’s homeschooling or high school,” he said.

“Passing these tests can either replace university courses or be considered a prerequisite, allowing you to graduate faster.”

Top picture: Fifteen years tA third-year psychology student, Valerie Tan is originally from Singapore and attends classes at the West and Tempe campuses. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News

Mary Beth Faller

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