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High School

By tsunake in News
Thu Jul 20, 2000 at 04:51:03 PM EST
Tags: Help! (Ask Kuro5hin) (all tags)
Help! (Ask Kuro5hin)

It's that time of year again. Thoughts of school are creeping back into the empty skulls of children who were just beginning to enjoy their summer. I'm going to be a Junior in high school this year, but I dread going back. Although smart, I rarely turn in any work and generally get bad grades. College is an eventual goal of mine, if only to learn all the cool stuff there is to learn (I love to learn, I hate high school). However, I also want avoid another two years of high school and continue working for a while. The difficulties I would experience in the real world scare me a bit, as well...

While my situation/question is very similar to the college question Anonymous Hero posted recently, I think that the questions and potential answers differ enough that a new submission is needed.

So, were I to drop out now, what would my chances of getting into a decent college be? A while ago I had big plans on going to CMU, but that's sort of a long shot now. As I stated previously, I'm lacking grade wise. I haven't taken the SAT yet, but I generally do well on standardized tests, and expect to do well (I'm strong in math and English). I've taken the Computer Science AB AP exam and gotten a 5. And I'm a fast learner (though not exactly the most proactive soul around).

If I get to go to college, I'm not too worried about going to the nicest college possible. I just want to learn. As for the real world problems, I do have a fairly secure job at a small developer if I wish to stay.

Is it safe to get my GED? Can a high school dropout be successful? I'm hoping someone who's been here before can give me some advice. Thanks.


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High School | 86 comments (80 topical, 6 editorial, 0 hidden)
enough about Katz (2.44 / 18) (#1)
by sallgeud on Thu Jul 20, 2000 at 02:42:34 PM EST

If I see one more thing about Katz, I'm going to kill all of you.

Re: enough about Katz (2.00 / 2) (#11)
by warpeightbot on Thu Jul 20, 2000 at 04:49:49 PM EST

you know, anyone weakminded enough to let the mere mention of That Person from That Other Site provoke him to do lethal violence on someone who is not even That Person.... needs a nice, soft, pink padded room and an unlimited supply of vitamin-enriched warm soy milk, until the voices in his head quiet down.

[ Parent ]
Re: enough about Katz (2.50 / 2) (#13)
by rusty on Thu Jul 20, 2000 at 05:12:19 PM EST

Preferably a padded room with a T-1 and a couple nice boxen, though. sallgeud does a lot of good work on Scoop, and I'd hate to see that curtailed by a mere murderous impulse or two. ;-)

BTW, Mr. Katz is amongst us as well now, so, as goes the rule in life as a whole, don't say it unless you really mean it.

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

Re: enough about Katz (3.00 / 1) (#24)
by psiox on Thu Jul 20, 2000 at 06:43:18 PM EST

Perhaps 'tis just me, but I find much insight in Katz's work and am a largish fan of his :P

I personally was called into the counselors' offices several times last year because I was suspected to be one of those 'evil atheists plotting to kill people'. It's not like I emanate that... I dress respectably and am generally a nice guy. Other students (Christians) caused me TONS of problems by simply telling faculty members something was 'wrong' with me (I'm not a 'vocal' atheist, but when I get into debates I usually win). 'Twas one of the things that made high school such a nightmare :P.

Anyway, err, I like Jon Katz. Yeah ;)

And the river's running through my veins. Lately she don't seem the same. And the blood keeps calling out my name.
[ Parent ]

Re: enough about Katz (none / 0) (#42)
by Snomed on Fri Jul 21, 2000 at 12:39:16 AM EST

One thing about Katz that few people recognize is that he is remarkably courageous. Writing about geek culture and geek issues as a 50+ year old journalist on Slashdot is not something an uncourageous person could do.

Something about Katz's style rubs a lot of people the wrong way, and that makes him an easy target. But when most people get beyond their mid thirties their courage quietly evaporates. Just look around you and count the number of old guys willing to stick their necks out about anything. You can go for weeks or months at a time and count them on one hand. Most people beyond their mid thirties won't even take controversial stands, let alone dig up controversies or injustices and shout about them while people jeer at them.

Anyway, it's easy to find flaws in his reasoning, or to spot things he misunderstands. But to live with that much courage and conviction is something I hope I can manage to do when I'm his age.

[ Parent ]

Re: enough about Katz (3.00 / 1) (#70)
by fluffy grue on Sat Jul 22, 2000 at 12:17:27 AM EST

Don't confuse courage with stupidity. :)

Personally, it's not his style which I have issue with, it's his whole attitude, his whole patronizing, "You guys are special! You really are!" Sometimes it feels like he treats everyone in "geek culture" as his pets or something. "Aww, isn't that cute? They're telling me to fuck off and die! Isn't that just precious</em?"

One time I got in a debate with him via email regarding something (I think it was on his article on how recommendation technology is evil). I can't remember what my stance was on it, but I mentioned to him, quite politely I might add, that perhaps people would respect him more if he didn't talk down to everyone in such a patronizing way. His response was, basically, that because he'd been such a respected Wired author and had written so many books that he was obviously right and I was obviously wrong. I tried to tell him about how there's a somewhat different audience in Wired in general and the like, but rather than discuss things, he just shut me out.

Eventually, after the 'discussion' had degreaded into pure fluff, I asked him why he continued to bother to reply to me if he was so sure that I was wrong but didn't want to actually raise any new points. He said that if I didn't want him to reply to a response, I shouldn't reply to him (i.e. "if I don't get the last word, I will reply so that I do"). So I decided to screw it and let him get the last word. Whatever. I didn't need to go down to his level.

Read a couple of nodes of mine on Everything2: klaklak's "post" series: a literary critique and Super Mario Brothers: A Literary Criticism. They are in the same "much ado about nothing" style that Katz is famous for in his "insightful" reviews and "rational" discourses. Seems kinda laughable and pretentious, right? So how can anyone take Katz seriously when he's doing the same kind of writing on a serious basis?
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]
[ Parent ]

Re: enough about Katz (none / 0) (#71)
by fluffy grue on Sat Jul 22, 2000 at 12:20:27 AM EST

Crap, I should get around to making it a habit to hit 'preview' first. Hey Rusty... maybe if you do an unpreviewed submit with a bad HTML tag in it, it should give you a warning before you post (since although things like <rant>blah blah</rant> often happen, usually a bad HTML tag means there's a PEBKAC :)

Obviously, that </em should have been a </em>. Sorry for the resulting eye strain.
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]
[ Parent ]

Re: enough about Katz (2.00 / 2) (#69)
by fluffy grue on Sat Jul 22, 2000 at 12:05:52 AM EST

BTW, Mr. Katz is amongst us as well now, so, as goes the rule in life as a whole, don't say it unless you really mean it.
Aww, fuck.
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]
[ Parent ]

Katz will be Katz, and Katz will bait nerds (none / 0) (#76)
by mattm on Sun Jul 23, 2000 at 09:31:45 AM EST

Mr. Katz is amongst us as well now, so, as goes the rule in life as a whole, don't say it unless you really mean it.

You mean we're going to have katzo5hin, or maybe kurojon, in addition to katzdot? Good grief. Oh well, at least we'll have something to entertain ourselves with, moderating down article after article with extreme prejudice, hee hee hee...

(And I do mean the "extreme prejudice" bit, bah.)

[ Parent ]
Re: Katz will be Katz, and Katz will bait nerds (none / 0) (#77)
by rusty on Sun Jul 23, 2000 at 01:56:07 PM EST

I just meant that Jon reads the site, not that he works for K5 or anything. I hope this doesn't cause problems...

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
on to college (3.40 / 5) (#2)
by madams on Thu Jul 20, 2000 at 03:01:35 PM EST

Many universities don't require a high school diploma or a GED.

High school and college are not even comparable. In college, the focus is really on you, the student. In high school, students have little or no control over the institution. This isn't to say that high school is a mini-Orwellian nightmare, but it doesn't offer the freedom of university. In university, you are free to choose your classes and make your own schedule (want to sleep in until noon? no problem!).

College is also a good step into the real world. I'm only a sophomore, but college has given me more confidence and self-reliance than I've ever had before.

College is for anyone who truly loves learning. Don't let your record at high school stand in your way!

Mark Adams
"But pay no attention to anonymous charges, for they are a bad precedent and are not worthy of our age." - Trajan's reply to Pliny the Younger, 112 A.D.

Some info, and some perspective (4.40 / 5) (#5)
by sbeitzel on Thu Jul 20, 2000 at 03:20:31 PM EST

Okay. I know a couple of guys who are doing quite well for themselves and who never completed high school. They both got their GEDs and are working in tech. One of my roommates in college dropped out before getting his degree, and so never completed his Bachelor's. In my shared house in college, there were four of us who started out as computer science majors and none of us got CS degrees; and yet we're all working in the field.

So, yes, it's possible to do well without having the degree.

However, the degree is like a foot in the door. Things are harder, initially, if you don't have a diploma. Also, the difference between theoretical and practical can trip you up if you don't have enough knowledge of each kind. If you haven't gone through the schooling (or haven't done enough study on your own) then you may wind up with lots and lots of practical knowledge but have a very poor understanding of the theoretical basis for that knowledge -- which can be dangerous or costly when it comes time to design a new system.

I would strongly advise you to stick it out through school. Middle school and high school are brutal and mind-numbing, but you can glean some good knowledge there. Similarly, when it comes to college, if you aren't quite sure what you want, then let it wait a little while. Take as many units at a junior college as you can, since the teachers and students there tend to be more motivated than at the 4 year institutions (and the units are cheaper, too).

Reading material (5.00 / 2) (#12)
by Demona on Thu Jul 20, 2000 at 05:10:48 PM EST

I heartily recommend Grace Llewellyn's The Teenage Liberation Handbook: How to Quit School and Get a Real Life and Education. Also check out her Not Back to School Camp workshop, and her more recent book, Real Lives: Eleven Teenagers Who Don't Go To School.

"There is no security in freedom -- only boundless opportunity."

[ Parent ]

Worked for me (3.40 / 5) (#7)
by Anonymous Hero on Thu Jul 20, 2000 at 03:35:53 PM EST

I dropped out of high school shortly before completing my sophomore year. Went to work for an ISP, got a few years of experience with admining and programming, and now I'm a Software Engineer, no worse for having not gone to college. It's really just dependant on how motivated you are. Do what you think would be right for you, and if you don't know, then don't drop out. It's a gamble, since there has to be a company willing to give you an entry level job.

Re: Worked for me (1.50 / 2) (#35)
by tzanger on Thu Jul 20, 2000 at 10:39:42 PM EST

I dropped out of high school shortly before completing my sophomore year. Went to work for an ISP, got a few years of experience with admining and programming, and now I'm a Software Engineer, no worse for having not gone to college.

I'm sorry, but unless you've got a piece of paper saying so, you are NOT an engineer. That word gets thrown around so much these days it is all but totally dilluted.

I'm not an engineer, although I do the work of one. If I can get enough time to do the night school thing I will get my engineering degree and after "the test", my P.Eng. I know that if I had worked hard enough to get my papers I'd be right pissed off if some slob who dropped out of high school and worked for a couple years suddenly called himself an engineer.

And yes I am "some slob who dropped out of high school and worked for a few years". My peers are engineers and the work I perform is that of an engineer. However I do not have that piece of paper and it is wrong, if not illegal, to go around calling myself an electrical engineer.

Believe me, I'm one of the biggest opponents to everyone shuffling off to university to get that piece of paper. I didn't do it and I have a great job, great pay and great future. However calling yourself an engineer without that paper really rubs me the wrong way. You aren't one until you've got that paper, no matter how hard you work.

[ Parent ]
Re: Worked for me (4.00 / 1) (#46)
by fuzz on Fri Jul 21, 2000 at 08:50:30 AM EST

when people ask me what i do, i say i'm a network administrator. when they ask me what my title is, i say systems engineer. it's not my fault that the "industry standard" title for my job description includes "engineer." get over it.

[ Parent ]
there is always homeschooling... (4.00 / 2) (#10)
by mezzo on Thu Jul 20, 2000 at 04:32:30 PM EST

...if you don't like the high school environment. and you can pretty much go on your own pace.

and i think there should be a homeschool general support/community in a lot of cities, where they exchange ideas about what works, what doesn't work and so forth.

"The avalanche has started, it is too late for the pebbles to vote."-- Kosh
Re: there is always homeschooling... (5.00 / 1) (#20)
by psiox on Thu Jul 20, 2000 at 06:13:46 PM EST

I agree. It's a great alternative - assuming you have the resources (read: parents). Much of the school system has turned into a place where parents can drop their kids for day-time babysitting. Part of the problem with children in general is the lack of parental guidance and support. If only everyone had the opportunity for homeschooling...

And the river's running through my veins. Lately she don't seem the same. And the blood keeps calling out my name.
[ Parent ]

Don't worry about it... (3.70 / 3) (#14)
by aiken_d on Thu Jul 20, 2000 at 05:12:49 PM EST

First, let me cackle and generally gloat that I am done with all that stupid stuff. Bwahaha.

More seriously, I really wouldn't worry about it. The two positive things high school (and college) can teach are 1) the ability to research and learn, and 2) some level of discipline and stick-to-it-ness.

If you're doing ok in those categories, and you're not genuinely interested in the social and educational life of these fine (cough, cough) institutions, I'd say bail on them.

I finished high school, and dropped out of college. My business partner went the GED route, then dropped out of college. By most people's standards we're very successfull (not successful enough, mind you, because I still have neither a yacht nor a harem).

Take it easy, apply yourself, work hard, you'll do fine. Don't look at dropping out/GEDing as an excuse to sit around drinking and partying and generally not accomplishing anything (that's what college is for).

Its all about da' Benjamins (4.00 / 1) (#15)
by M3 on Thu Jul 20, 2000 at 05:13:25 PM EST

Folks, you forget about the #1 incentive in society - cold hard cash. You'll get a lot more of it if you get the degree. Granted, experience counts for a lot, but if you have 2 5-7 yr developers, one of them with a "B.S." and the other without ... we all know who's getting more cash.

I just finished up a part-time masters in C.S. Sure I didn't need it, I have a sweet job, but now I'm a senior developer and I got a raise - just from the sheep skin.

But I have to admit it, I'm much better at sorting algorithms now
ISAPI?? More like ICRAPI

Yeah but, does the increased pay offset... (none / 0) (#32)
by marlowe on Thu Jul 20, 2000 at 08:30:38 PM EST

the increased cost of education and the delay in getting into the job market.

I went for a four year degree. By the time I graduated, half of what I'd learned was already obsolete. If I'd known then what I know now, I'd have dropped out and gotten a job after two years. It worked for Bill Gates and Michael Dell.

In the tech field, knowledge is perishable. There's no point in storing a lot of it up for later. (Unless you can sucker somebody into paying you more because you got an advanced degree. And even then, you may not come out haead.) Get what you need to bootstrap yourself into a career, and then keep your skills current as you go. That's what works long term.

-- The Americans are the Jews of the 21st century. Only we won't go as quietly to the gas chambers. --
[ Parent ]
Re: Yeah but, does the increased pay offset... (none / 0) (#48)
by fuzz on Fri Jul 21, 2000 at 08:55:02 AM EST

yeah, but the question is- do prospective employers already know this? do their clients know this? if you're in a tech position where your advanced creditials might be of use to a company for boasting about its staff's abilities, you're much more marketable. so no matter the cost of your education, it's worth it. even if the skills aren't all that, it's the look that counts.

[ Parent ]
College and high school (5.00 / 3) (#16)
by Lounge on Thu Jul 20, 2000 at 05:24:35 PM EST

You should check with your local community college and see if they offer a high school program. Ours was open to juniors and seniors and we had class 3 days a week. We were allowed 4 (most ppl only took 2) college classes all covered by the school (including books) and they counted for both college and high school credits. The high school classes were much better than the ones i was getting at my previous school and it was a nice way to get started in the right direction for college.


Re: College and high school (none / 0) (#18)
by Anonymous Hero on Thu Jul 20, 2000 at 05:48:52 PM EST

We call that "Concurrent credit" at my school. As I understand, you have a better chance of getting full/any credit at out of state schools if you take the AP classes instead, and it's cheaper (if your school, like mine, doesn't waive the full price +books) too.

[ Parent ]
Re: College and high school (none / 0) (#28)
by Anonymous Hero on Thu Jul 20, 2000 at 07:52:29 PM EST

But concurrent credit would neatly solve the problem of the story author. I say it's the best idea I've heard yet.

[ Parent ]
Re: College and high school (none / 0) (#63)
by Icculus on Fri Jul 21, 2000 at 03:38:05 PM EST

We had a similar program available to us here in MN with our local U. The classes would count for both high school _and_ college credit, so you'll still get your HS diploma even though you're essentially been at college for 2 years.

At the time it seemed like a big hassle, but I wish I'd stuffed my schedule with classes, saved a ton of money on tuition, and had my degree a year or two early. I highly suggest you take advantage of a program like this, if it's available to you.

[ Parent ]

I think high school is a part of growing up . . . (3.90 / 7) (#19)
by enthalpyX on Thu Jul 20, 2000 at 05:53:17 PM EST

(Disclaimer: I just graduated, so this post is completely in hindsight. I can't see myself saying any of the below, say, two years ago.)

But yes, I think high school is a part of growing up. I hated high school. Oh, how I really hated high school -- however, if you're "smart," then your intelligence should be adaptive enough to know that high school teaches you a lot. However lacking it may be in academic subjects, it teaches you how to get along with people who don't like you. Or, at least, stomach constant persecution.

If you're smart, why in the /world/ aren't you making good grades? It's not as trivial as I make it sound, however, through much introspection, I realized that my emotions and my rebellious tendancy often got the best of me. But it's always an *exquisite* excuse -- "I'm smart, but I just didn't study." So that makes it OK? No, it doesn't.

Being smart is not just being able to read a book and spit it back out. It's about knowing how to maneuver social situations and come out on top. Would it really hurt if you asked a few questions in class -- even if you already knew the answer? The teacher then knows you care, might eventually be sympathetic to you, and WANT to give you good grades. What teacher wants to give good grades to an arrogant "I'm smarter than everyone else" student?

Even in classes such as English. That was the second-worst grade I ever made. I had this teacher who was the wife of a Methodist minister. Now, being an atheist, our views very very rarely coincided. But just because I voiced my dissent when she started "preaching," come time to grade essays, I just never quite really understood the "deeper meaning" of the book/poem/story. I worked my ass off in there, and didn't get an A. But if I had just stopped rolling my eyes so much, maybe talked with her a little more, it would have been better.

But I guess it all depends on where you want to go in life. I call myself a geek, but at the same time, I couldn't survive without other people. I need my "personal space" (yes, I've turned down offers for a social outing to just sit & read/code at home), but living is very hard to do when you're lonely.

But I can't emphasize enough that it is ONLY temporary. I think it would be great if you might recognize this, and go on and complete high school. I know I've grown as a person, even though high school was hell. Sure, I could have forgone having rocks thrown at me, being called "fag," having my stuff defaced when my back was turned -- but if you let it get to you, "they" win. But even moreso, YOU lose. They don't have a future, and you're simply cheating yourself.


And while there /was/ much I didn't like about high school, it had its moments. My introduction to espresso & lattes is memorable. And I could recount all sort of esoteric stuff that I think is hilarious, but I hate it when other people do that, so I'm not going to. I guess the one thing that really pushed me forward through the entire thing, however, was work. I've been working at a little web application shop for about 2 years now. I learned lots about MySQL, PHP, PERL, and administration in general. At the end of a long day, it was nice to go to a place and actually solve "real world" problems.

But I guess another thing I liked about school in general was the "peer approval." In much the same way that writers of free software receive praise from the community, it's so much simpler. You answer a question: "Good Johnny, very good. You got the question right!" And lots of other people got it wrong. Call it egoistic, but I loved that feeling. Especially when someone who proclaimed themselves as "smart" was on the bad end of the deal. But it's just that feeling that kept them going.

It's all a huge game. You can forfeit, but it's much more satisfying if you stay in the game. But as the disclaimer says up at the top, it's hard to see when you're living it. Come August, I'm heading off to the University of Maryland @ College Park, majoring in CS. Most of my "classmates" (haha, such a beloved term) are going to small local universities with no idea where they're going in life. Many of them are staying with the friends they've had since grade school, and they'll probably spend the rest of their life with the same people.

I'm past that. It's over. =) God. I didn't want this to sound like an excert from Katz's book Geeks. Just keep in mind that guy's situation was special. Don't seriously think that the odds are for you when getting into college without a high school diploma.

Good luck with whatever you decide. :)

Re: I think high school is a part of growing up . (3.00 / 1) (#22)
by psiox on Thu Jul 20, 2000 at 06:31:21 PM EST

High School is, unfortunately, a large part of growing up. Dealing with the jerks and generally incompetent atmosphere does give one a chance to learn to deal with the type. But at a point it just becomes a waste of time :P. I went to the same school as tsunake for a while... a highly religious school with little to offer education-wise. There was constant persecution and alienation directed towards the small 'geek/hax0r' crowd. Although it makes sense to say "If it was that easy, why didn't you do perfectly?" it's important to understand the other emotional difficulties that come with being a 'geek'. Thanks to constant persecution myself, I nearly gave up many, many times. Pretty much the only reason I didn't is because of my highly-supportive (most of the time ;>) parents. Even so, to tell you the truth, I'm surprised I didn't. It's extremely difficult to put up with flak from people and still jump through hoops for the pleasure of the Powers that Be :P
Similarly, just because you learn from an experience doesn't make the experience totally worthwhile. tsunake's job affords him opportunities to learn far more important people skills than simply putting up with some of the ... 'people' found in a high school environment. I personally don't think learning to deal with such a limited spectrum of people is worth the hassle. It doesn't really bother me much anymore, though. I hate to agree (simply because I fear offending tsu ;)), but it does tell colleges and employers a bit when they know (and hey, everyone hated high school, right?) what you had to deal with and see your successes nonetheless. As the son of a recruiter, I know they seriously respect it. It can make all the difference between getting and losing a job. If nothing else, high school /is/ worth the extra respect it can earn when you manage to put up with things and come out on top :).

And the river's running through my veins. Lately she don't seem the same. And the blood keeps calling out my name.
[ Parent ]

Re: I think high school is a part of growing up . (4.00 / 1) (#26)
by tsunake on Thu Jul 20, 2000 at 07:26:46 PM EST

When I described myself as smart, it was just to clarify I'm fully capable of doing a bang up job in school. I would never just say I'm smart, I'm too aware that there's always someone better than myself, or something.

I've had some cool teachers, and I've had some boring teachers. I don't like confrontations or people being angry at me, so I keep that at a minimum. Apparently I'm pretty passive about many social things (I just flat out don't care if I have a girlfriend or if people think my friends are geek's or anything). I can't recall ever hating any of my teachers.

But I sit in class, draw on stuff, look up every now and then, and don't do my homework. Sometimes I don't bother to do my classwork. When I'm in school I'm just bored to hell. I suppose it's a matter of focus, although in non-school related things I have no trouble. The way it's organized turns me off. There are some cases where the structure works (notably, my computer science class, where I still didn't turn in much of my homework, but I payed a lot of attention and retained a lot of the knowledge), and some where it almost works for me (mathematics, where I'm fine being teached at (you can't really do /too/ much independant thinking in high school math) but the class moves way too slow), but then there are the cases where the structure is just wrong. For instance, English. In my previous English classes we didn't bother too much with the semantics of the language, we focused more on literature and stuff (my English teacher was also my favorite and the best teacher I've had). Compared with regular English classes, there was no structure whatsoever, however, due to state regulations and such, the class still has to follow certain guidelines. Ideally, I would have been in an English class were we selected literature to read (with recommendations from the instructor), read it at our own pace, and reported on our choices in some creative manner. If we didn't choose Romeo and Juliet or some other 'required' reading, so what.

This is getting a bit rantlike. My point is, high school isn't working for me and I'm having trouble bending to it. I'm not wanting to get out for social reasons :)

Thanks for your input though, and I know there are plenty of other k5ers that it applies to more than me who'll benefit.

[ Parent ]
Re: I think high school is a part of growing up . (none / 0) (#81)
by enthalpyX on Sun Jul 23, 2000 at 09:09:11 PM EST

Hmm. I guess I was venting somewhat; there goes that uncontrollable emotion again! Sorry. :)

My point is, high school isn't working for me and I'm having trouble bending to it.

Then you have to MAKE it work for you. Or, drop out and take the consequences. I always saw myself as working for school. But I'm going to be the advocate of you staying in high school, and I'll try to offer some advice:

  1. Read from outside sources. Might I suggest, for your next class, going to a local college bookstore, and buy some used textbooks. If it's an English class, go out and buy some critical reviews of the literature. For a world history class, The Discoverers by Daniel J. Boorstein is excellent. And, above all, read read read. Read good books. Read bad books and bitch about them. Just read.
  2. Learn to memorize. Sad to say, but a large part of school is nothing but memorization. Go and order yourself a copy of The Memory Book by Harry Lorayne and Jerry Lucas. It teaches you memory techniques. It's interesting, even if it doesn't work for you. ISBN: 0345410025
  3. Take AP classes. I honestly enjoyed the few AP classes I took. I wish I had taken more. If you're not familiar with the program, you take a high school course that is equivalent to one semester (or half-semester) of the same college course. You take an entire year to cover the material, and at the end of the year, you take an exam, and can get college credit. These classes are great, because they FORCE you to learn independently. Anyway, AP classes rock.
  4. IB classes. I don't know if your school has IB classes (International Baccalaureate), but I have a friend who took them at her old school, and she can't be quiet about them. They're supposed to be very similar to AP classes, except more extensible (or something like that). Search for "IB classes" on Google. I've only heard it through the grapevine, but allegedly they actually have a class that teaches you how to think.
  5. Have goals that seem unattainable. Another thing that really helped me in high school was constant discontentment. What you describe is more like apathy (is this right?). I was often really agitated in class, and it really helped to focus that nervous energy into something productive (like studying/reading).
But, either way you decide (stay in high school or drop out), you have a lot of work ahead of you if you want to be successful. I don't know what grade you're in, but colleges really really care about junior year. If you can knock out junior year, a college would be pushed to think, "Hey -- this guy finally figured it out. We'll let those first two years slide." A kickass junior year would partially fulfill your duty to the bureaucracy, and your work experience would provide you with something truly unique.

HTH, more than the original. =)


[ Parent ]

High school is NOT part of growing up (none / 0) (#31)
by marlowe on Thu Jul 20, 2000 at 08:23:32 PM EST

I'm 40, so I have some perspective. High school did not give me anything at all that helped me in life. Not one damn thing. Every useful bit of knowledge, every good habit, every penetrating insight, I picked up someplace other than the public school system.

High school was at best, a complete waste. It didn't help me grow up. It didn't help anybody I knew grow up. The public education system is institutionalized mediocrity. It was crap in the sixties and seventies, and from everything I hear, it hasn't improved all that much. Make no excuses for it.

College wasn't nearly as bad, but there was plenty of room for improvement there as well.

-- The Americans are the Jews of the 21st century. Only we won't go as quietly to the gas chambers. --
[ Parent ]
I'm sorry that was your experience, but -- (none / 0) (#86)
by Anonymous Hero on Tue Jul 25, 2000 at 05:14:33 PM EST

Your experience wasn't mine. I went to an okay high school recently -- graduated two years ago -- and academically, I had a pretty good foundation for going to UC Berkeley, where I'm now a political science major. I had a number of outstanding teachers in English, econ/government, science, history, journalism, and the one good math teacher. Thank you, Mr. Hatch, Mrs. Nahigian, Mr. Marson, Mr. Berkowitz, Mr. von Berg, Mr. Porter, Mr. Haas, Mr. Woo... Mr. Hatch, especially, taught me a great deal about writing and about understanding literature that helps me EVERY TIME I read a text.

Yes, socially it wasn't terrific, but it wasn't complete hell, either.

Perhaps it's a bit unfair to paint every single high school in the nation, public or private, rich or poor, rural or urban or suburban, with the same wide brush. Sure, there are many problems, but there's good there, too.

[ Parent ]

Re: I think high school is a part of growing up . (3.00 / 1) (#45)
by jajuka on Fri Jul 21, 2000 at 03:58:02 AM EST

If you're smart, why in the /world/ aren't you making good grades?

Well speaking for myself, how about because the homework was so mind-numbingly boring and repetetive I would rather have cut off my arm than do it. I did not get good grades in high school. The fact is I got excellent grades on all of my tests in high school, often best in class, but at end of term my grades sucked because I would not do any homework. I could go on a while about how if the actuall goal of school is learning, my proof of knowledge on the tests should have wiped out any penalties for skipped homework, but that's not the point. (and no I didnt cram for the tests either, I just retained what I heard in class and read in the text).

The current educational system is not about learning to think or even learning facts. It's about being a good little cog in the machine. I honestly believe the public education system in the US teaches more people NOT to think than the other way around. It's especially awful for the truely intelligent. Even in college I found that new material in math classes, for example, was actually only taught in the first 5 minutes of class. The rest of the hour was spent repeating the same information over and over again in different words for the dubious benefit of those people in class who would probably never understand it anyway. And I could go on for pages about the questionable wisdom of teaching math as an abstract, divorced from it's application.

This is not to say you can't get anything out of it. just that to do so you have to be an active learner, not passive. You have to take what you want from school, not sit back and wait for school to give it too you.

To the original post I'll say this, I'm not about to tell you whether you should drop out of high school or not. That's your decision and you shouldn't be giving to much weight to anyone elses opinion on the matter. I finished high school but dropped out of college. A large part of my problem in college was that I had no clear idea what I wanted to do with my life. I took whatever random classes interested me at the time. Some of them I really enjoyed, others I didn't. It sounds to me like you have a good idea what you want to do. That's an incredible advantage. There are a lot of things I would like to go back to school and study if my work schedule would allow it. I feel a lot of holes in my knowledge. And there are some things that really are easier to learn in a classroom setting than on your own. If I had it to do over I think I could get a lot out of school now that I know what types of knowledge I'd like to pursue, and what kind of things I learn best on my own. Of course some of that knowledge comes from work experience so maybe going to college part time while working in the industry is the best way to go. There's no one best path for everybody, just whatever works best for you.

[ Parent ]
I tried that active learning bit in high school. (none / 0) (#56)
by marlowe on Fri Jul 21, 2000 at 01:34:41 PM EST

It pissed the teachers off something awful. Finally I decided to just shut up and go to sleep, and do my active learning in my spare time.
-- The Americans are the Jews of the 21st century. Only we won't go as quietly to the gas chambers. --
[ Parent ]
Re: I think high school is a part of growing up . (none / 0) (#62)
by Zach on Fri Jul 21, 2000 at 02:41:10 PM EST

Agreed. As a lazy person I weigh every activity by work/output. For the ammount of work I'm doing is the end result really worth it? I say NO!

I have some friends who study hours for every test and get mad when they get less then 100%.

They never can go anywhere, participate in sports or fun because "there's a test tomorrow", or "I'm going to work on Mr(s) X's project".

I can go out when I want and don't really have deadlines (I don't care that much about turning in homework/studying). I can make some money working. I can take time and read some geek related books instead of that Literature from English I hate. What is the difference in our end result? Maybe .5 GPA, at the most.

Just lame...

[ Parent ]
Re: I think high school is a part of growing up . (none / 0) (#83)
by enthalpyX on Sun Jul 23, 2000 at 09:16:12 PM EST

Two words: time management.

You can study for tests, make good grades, and still party some, go on late night coding sprees, etc.

[ Parent ]
Just don't get your hopes up... (4.30 / 6) (#21)
by Anonymous Hero on Thu Jul 20, 2000 at 06:29:04 PM EST

Don't think that post-secondary education is going to be heaven. Sorry to break it to you, but it's "same shit, different pile".

That said, they are what you make of them. Don't gimme that "I'm so smart school doesn't matter to me" bullshit, 'cos you aren't going to magically wake up after graduation and put your ass in gear without effort.

I didn't have such a rough go at high school, and I'm doing great now in university, but not without effort. Sorry if I'm dumping on you for the wrong reasons, but I have a lot of really bright friends that blamed everything but themselves for their lack of effort in education. Those friends are no longer at university with me.

Get the degree, don't worry about the grades. (5.00 / 1) (#23)
by meldroc on Thu Jul 20, 2000 at 06:31:32 PM EST

I was in the same boat you are in when I was in high school - I was smart, but I didn't feel motivated to study, so I graduated by the skin of my teeth. That meant I didn't get to go to MIT, but because of my high ACT scores, I made it into my state university.

Other posters have already given the benefits of getting a HS diploma and a college degree, so I won't go into it here, just want to say they're right - the degree opens a lot of doors that would otherwise be slammed in your face. But one thing you ought to know is after you get in college, noone gives a shit about your high school grades. If you want to work and get good grades, that's great, but don't sweat it too much if you get a C average. College admissions boards may give you a harder time for not getting good grades, but once you're admitted, nobody will hold them against you.


Re: Get the degree, don't worry about the grades. (none / 0) (#64)
by Icculus on Fri Jul 21, 2000 at 03:44:29 PM EST

Not only that, but prospective employers rarely care what your college GPA is. I can think of only one time for me or anyone I talk with when a job offer was contingent on a transcript being produced.

[ Parent ]
If you don't like it.... (4.70 / 3) (#25)
by canthidefromme on Thu Jul 20, 2000 at 06:55:07 PM EST

When I was in high school, I hated it. I had a few friends, and had taken all of the math and science courses. Most of the courses weren't challenging. I didn't try hard, but still made decent grades, and made it into the top 3% in my class. I decided to apply early after my sophomore year to MIT, CMU, and NYU Stern school of business. I got wait-listed at MIT, but due to my skill at standardized testing, got scholarships at both other schools. Right now, I'm 16, and going to be a sophomore at NYU. This summer I am coding Perl, and living my own apartment in Greenwich Village. I feel that I have gained perspective beyond my years-- I woudn't be worrying about the electricity bill right now, or about a 500 page Rhodes Scholar application. Sometimes, I wish I were back in high school. Right now, I would have been a senior in the fall. Don't be in such a hurry.

-J <a href="http://www.mediatrinity.com">MT

Additions and Clarification (4.50 / 2) (#27)
by tsunake on Thu Jul 20, 2000 at 07:46:13 PM EST

I do care about an education. However, high school is not providing me with one. Socially, I can hold my own. I can deal with jerks and whatnot. It's not the social atmosphere of school that I dread returning to. I fear another 8 months of boring classes that I could have taught myself.

If I were to drop out, how does that affect things like credit and such? Would this affect my ability to get my own place at all? My parents have very bad credit...

Also, how about things like student loans/scholarships? When I go to college, would I have to pay my entire way?

Finally, does anyone have tips about dealing with parents? For one, I know my parents would think I was nuts if they knew I wanted to dropout. Certainly the last thing I want to do is disappoint them, but I don't want to sacrifice my sanity/ability/time because of them either.

Thanks again.

Re: Additions and Clarification (5.00 / 1) (#29)
by canthidefromme on Thu Jul 20, 2000 at 08:04:04 PM EST

Credit depends on income and credit history only.

How can you say you can teach yourself everything, if you haven't tried everything? Does your high school or local college offer courses? If you like math as much as I do, (and if you haven't taken them already), Linear Algebra and Topolgy were the most fun. Even my dreaded high school had Multivariate Calc.

However, my most important lesson I learned in High School and College was that there will always be somebody who is smarter than me, somebody who can teach me something. Recently, I won a presidential scholarship and met Bill Clinton at the White house, which supposedly makes me the smartest female in PA:).... However, there were many people at my high school who I knew were much better than me at math, or writing, and i've tried to learn from those people as well. I am just a person with high SATs who looks well rounded on paper, but I've met so many people who were absolute geniuses, gone to school with them, and learned despite bad teachers.


[ Parent ]
Re: Additions and Clarification (4.00 / 1) (#37)
by psiox on Thu Jul 20, 2000 at 11:48:41 PM EST

I agree, one of the largest benefits of school is getting to meet other interesting people (provided you yourself are interesting, as I hereby declare you for reading k5 ;)). Unfortunately, many schools just don't have a wide variety of people. I myself have had to deal with a school that only had about 2 people I really respected and tried to learn things from. One of them was my worst enemy, the other's one of my greatest friends. IMHO, the great thing about going to a respectable college (like MIT is respected for engineering) is the opportunity to meet even more people to make you feel substantially inferior... err, more people to connect with and learn from. Public high school doesn't afford one many opportunities to (a) learn neat things you'll actually use, or (b) meet people that will help you learn neat things you'll actually use. I myself am a huge fan of math and I've been propelled through the program all my life and have continually done as much as possible. In high school, it's severely dumbed down, I've noticed. Unfortunately, even though I was 'above' that level, I was still unable to enroll in the college courses (and yes, I actually attempted and tested. Not quite high enough :( ). I'm glad to finally be skipping on to college... That I wouldn't miss out on for the world. Looking forward to feeling more incompetent than even tsunake made me feel <grin, just kidding, tsu>.
Hafta love the Peter Principle ;).

And the river's running through my veins. Lately she don't seem the same. And the blood keeps calling out my name.
[ Parent ]

Re: Additions and Clarification (4.00 / 1) (#53)
by Anonymous Hero on Fri Jul 21, 2000 at 12:37:40 PM EST

Let me offer you some advice: In high school I thought I was pretty damn smart. When I got to college I realized I wasn't nearly as smart as I thought I was. Now I realize that I confused smartness with potential. I had a lot of potential in high school (music and writing, specifically), but I had no idea what any sort of discipline was. I got to college and expected Utopia, instead I found out that it was just high school without hall passes. And beer, drugs & sex (sadly, I spent too much time on two of these and not enough on the other). I expected college to Teach Me, but it turned out to be a factory (I think this is pretty universal). So, I moped for a year, and then I got off my ass and started working. Hard. I spent 12 hours a day learning about, listening to, writing and playing music. I scoured the music library, I lived in the computer lab using Encore and Cakewalk, I set up shop for 6 hours in a practice room. By the end of the year I knew more about more than any of the other students. Unfortunately, I realized that my department had a bunch of hoops to jump through that made the slow kids feel like they were working hard, and that these hoops were a waste of my precious time. So I switched to English and continued studying music on my own, which has worked out fine so far. I like you, kid, you remind me of myself at your age (which wasn't that long ago), so come sit by my knee and listen to what Uncle Hero has to tell you. Two important maxims: 1) Self-learning is fine, but you *must* have access to resources to guide you and challenge you. The benefit of a classroom is that your teacher can introduce you to new ideas and information. The downside of a classroom is that a big class size means you're more of a number and less of an individual. 2) Potential is absolutely worthless without hard, hard work. I can't stress that last one enough - I've known many talented musicians who I couldn't play with because they didn't want to work, didn't want to challenge themselves. When I was working my ass off I made it a point to recognize my weaknesses (hell, I wrote them down) and to constantly push myself out of my comfort zone. You have to spend all of your time thinking about your weaknesses, not your strengths. Most people would rather not do that. I sympathize with your plight and I want you to succeed, but I also want to stress that it takes more than self-confidence and intelligence; it takes a lot of work. More than most people can ever imagine.

[ Parent ]
Why not do both? (5.00 / 1) (#30)
by www.sorehands.com on Thu Jul 20, 2000 at 08:16:23 PM EST

In some high schools, they have a CO-OP program during the senior year.

Siome High Schools offer a program where you do your senior year in High School while doing your Freshman year in college. I was going to do that, but I found out about it too late to get a full scholarship for that year.

Mattel, SLAPP terrorists intent on destroying free speech.

Or, the opposite (none / 0) (#39)
by barzok on Fri Jul 21, 2000 at 12:28:48 AM EST

Check out The Clarkson School (http://www.clarkson.edu/ is CU's website, link from there). Your first year is primarily college courses, with a couple "high school-like" courses slapped in to satisfy HS diploma requirements. A lot of people transfer to other universities after that first year, but many stay. Either way, you're a college sophomore at that point. You live in a dorm (2 actually) with other Clarkson School students, not "regular" college students for that first year.

[ Parent ]
Simon's Rock, et al. (3.50 / 2) (#33)
by Anonymous Hero on Thu Jul 20, 2000 at 08:37:43 PM EST

One poster -- canthidefromme, as I recall, the one who's "the smartest female in Pennsylvania" according to scholarship officials -- goes to Simon's Rock College of Bard, where I considered going, and you can too! If you're ready for really getting challenged, Simon's Rock takes sophomores and gives you a bachelor's in 4 years. MIT, I hear, might accept you without a HS diploma; I hear their grad program, at least, takes pride in looking at 'the whole person' in accepting/rejecting applicants.

Also, you could try applying to a good boarding school, like Northfield Mount Hermon in Massachusetts, as a transfer (and for financial aid, if you can't afford it). NMH is where my friend Seth Schoen (and lots of other smart people) went -- seems like an enlightened, collegeish school from the curricula and how-we-do-things info on its web page, which I'm too lazy to look for right now, and from my friend's experience.

There are other high schools or high school/college combos that might fit your needs. Check them out!

(BTW, I took some classes at my local community college while in HS. It was neat -- except for physics, but I just wasn't ready for a college lab science course as a HS freshman!)

Re: Simon's Rock, et al. (4.00 / 1) (#38)
by Anonymous Hero on Fri Jul 21, 2000 at 12:04:12 AM EST

Boarding schools are excellent opportunities. I'm headed to the Texas Academy of Math and Science next year myself, and from what I've already seen it's incredibly impressive. The opportunity to be in a college environment this early is one I wouldn't pass up for a night of passion with Britney Spears... /and/ Christina Aguilara...

[ Parent ]
MIT Admissions (5.00 / 1) (#44)
by Anonymous Hero on Fri Jul 21, 2000 at 02:49:41 AM EST

A former roomate of mine worked in the MIT admissions office. Sure they will admit the occasional wunderkind without a highschool diploma but for the most part the admissions process is a matter of statistics.......they are highly politically incorrect in admissions. Maximum ~30% of incomming class can be of Asian descent (read: must have perfect SAT's, volunteer work and connections to get in) ~ 50% caucasian and the rest of the slots are filed by people who don't fit ino the other two categories but who otherwise have the best credentials.

Admission to graduate school is an entirely different thing. It is controlled by the Professors in the department that is admitting the sudents. If Linus writes you a glowing letter of recommendation I'm sure you would be accepted into any graduate CS program anywhere with or without a highschool diploma.

Bottom line: apply to many schools, accept the best school, do great in your classes, transfer to better school.

A CS/Math/Eng degree from MIT, Berkeley, CMU, Waterloo (many others too) is worth its weight in gold (mentally and walletwise).

[ Parent ]
Re: Northfield Mount Hermon URL (none / 0) (#47)
by jade on Fri Jul 21, 2000 at 08:54:36 AM EST

As an fyi, here's the url to Northfield Mount Hermon.

[ Parent ]
Re: Simon's Rock, et al. (none / 0) (#50)
by canthidefromme on Fri Jul 21, 2000 at 11:02:01 AM EST

Simon's Rock was great-- I was able to take advanced physics like Quantum Mech, Classical Mechanics, and Relativity as a freshman! The faculty are all very dedicated and talented, on par with the faculty at a place like CMU (being a pittsburgh girl, i took some classes there), except they have much more time to give personal attention to any student who cares enough about the class. In Classical Mechanics and Quantum, there were only 3 other students in my class. (OT-- my physics professor for those 2 classes got quoted in TIME magazine's verbatim for saying, "It's best to just unwrap it quickly and get it over with."). I left after one year because they didn't have much of a department for Finance (Derivatives and stochastic calc-- fascinating stuff).. I would advise anyone to go who isn't afraid of living in the absolute middle of nowhere.. where all the students are either hippies or geeks....

[ Parent ]
comm. college (4.50 / 2) (#34)
by Anonymous Hero on Thu Jul 20, 2000 at 09:28:40 PM EST

I dropped out in 10th grade (or kicked out, depending on your point of view ;). I took a year off to work, then started going part time to a local community college. After about a year i went full time, matriculated, and last may i got my AS in comp. sci. My GED was given to me automatically after 24 credits (well, not quite automatically, i had to fill out a form). I'm now transferring to a pretty good school (rpi.edu), have the work experience needed to choose a job that i enjoy, and am actually ahead of my peers with whom i went to high school with. Not bad, eh? :) I totally agree with what a previous poster said; people in commm. college tend to be quite motivated, it's a pretty good atmosphere for learning. Also, as another poster said, once you're in college, no one cares what your high school grades were. RPI didn't ask for my HS grades, all they wanted were my comm. college grades.


"You must do what you feel is right, of cours (3.00 / 3) (#36)
by ehintz on Thu Jul 20, 2000 at 11:28:30 PM EST

I dropped out of both HS and a 4 year college. In fact, the only school I finished was Community College. Having a degree would be convenient to a certain extent, but having good skills is more important.

What it really comes down to is this: if you're not enjoying the process of learning, you're not learning the right thing. In heavily structured environments such as HS and a 4yr college, you are often learning a subject because some administrator said you should. This is not necessarily a bad thing. More knowledge is always good, and you never know when a principle of 17th century basket weaving may somehow trigger a neuron which leads to the solution for a seemingly unrelated problem. Nonetheless, if you're completely disinterested in 17th century basket weaving, you're far less likely to absorb the subject anyway.

Life is about learning. I spent considerable amounts of time ingesting drugs. I learned volumes about life and human nature. I don't plan on doing any more research in that field and would not recommend it to others. Nonetheless, I learned.

Do things which interest you. If those things happen to coincide with a college, fine. If they don't, fine. Just keep learning. Ultimately, it's about being happy, and a degree from some college is not essential to happiness. In my case, a degree would have equaled 2+ more years of an already miserable existence, and to this point in my career the lack of same has been completely irrelevant.

FWIW, I'm doing quite well despite my lack of university credentials. I probably won't ever be an executive without same, but I don't really want to be an executive anyway, so no harm no foul...

Ed Hintz

quitting high school as it relates to democracy; e (3.00 / 1) (#40)
by kakodaemonos on Fri Jul 21, 2000 at 12:30:14 AM EST

(16, junior next year, toyed with the idea of quitting h.s. for at least a year. debatably 'smart (I got 'board' with trying to unseat Gauss with the seventeen sided regular polygon construction.')

Well, intellectually speaking, everyone knows that high school is less desirable place to be for some people. The big question in my mind is why. I've read some literature on the subject, finding that most published was polemic, and not particularly valid criticism on many levels, and I think that the main failure of the school system is the long held puritan disrespect for freedom, particularly of those less 'apt'. I think that kids perform well free (if from both school and television or other such idle mass entertainment). Over the sumer, I do accomplish more by way of intellectual betterment than I do in school, at very little cost (cost such as the lack of standards, the rather free [unfocused] nature of my studies, which is worthy to be detested to some, although not myself in particular.). I've tried to explain to many the foulness of the lack of freedom in schools, and often gotten this response; "well, you don't have to be here." It took me months to realize that this is a valid choice. (My current stata; /still/ [eti ge] deliberating.)

It is my opinion that quitting school is not only possible, but should be done, if you are so inclined. Why, you may ask, to which my response is that as minors, we do not get democratic say in what goes on, and so we feel powerless to contradict the situation. (and yes, I do pay taxes? sales, income, no property, but what the hey.) And at the risk of sounding esque of anti-vietnam protests, still school is perpetuated by students. I think that democratically speaking, it is necessary to leave school if it fails to serve you. This helps other people do the same, and face it, we all know we want to. What are we afraid of? joblessness, social rejection, persistent lonliness, et al., but is this because the prospect has not already pioneered identidem? We all ask, has anyone else done this and succeded? well, if we did, perhaps we could set an example for others asking the same question. So, is not quiting school, against your own wishes, a valid existential choice? I say that it is not. I say that it is cowardly, mass dependent, and show a strong edge of anti-independence (and what keeps you in school in the first place?).

"ok, that's nice you hippie, but up at the top of your post you said that you were still deliberating on the matter." Ah, right, you win, I'm scared, I can't do it, I may be intellegent, but could I really hold my own in the 'real world'? ok, so I know, C, latin, a little math, and ancient greek. woo hoo. Could that feed me? ah, but it's not that simple, considre this; would I really be valiently aiding society by quitting, or attempting to selfishly persue my own silly desires at the expense of my potential worth to capitolism. If so, what then, is this bad? Is this entire thing foolishly idealistic? whatever. It all boils down to this. Has anyone ever done this before? how cheap. how dependent. how foolish. but I'm still scared. whatever, this has gone on long enough, I'm sure you get the idea.

Benefit society? Think about benefitting yourself (5.00 / 1) (#67)
by balls001 on Fri Jul 21, 2000 at 04:36:27 PM EST

Who are you fooling by even pretending to think about what impact you quitting school would have on society.

None at all. Besides, do you think society, as a whole, gives a hoot if a 16 or 17 year-old quits high school? "Society" is geared towards adults. Teenagers have a different "sub-society" thrust upon them by going through high school. That's another story. Hell, even most adults look down on me, and I'm much better off than they, financially speaking. Not to mention job security.

The fact of the matter is, if you possess the same knowledge in Grade 10 as you would by graduating, or even in my case by going through a 3 year computer program at your local college, then what's the point of sticking around to hear someone two, three or even four times your age, tell you something you already know, at a pace that would make human evolution seem relatively fast?

There is a market for equitable skills, ESPECIALLY in the high-tech industry. Many employers have the ability to look beyond the fact that you did not bother (some might say had enough brains) to finish college or high school, and see that you have the ability (albeit unproven) to function in a work environment, and for much less money (initially, you must always remember this) than a college graduate of similar skills.

Yes, you might make less money starting off, but consider the following:

By the time someone goes through college enters the job-market full time, with NO MORE experience than you (excluding part-time at Mcdonalds, which doesn't count anyways), you have had 3, 4, maybe 5 years with which to learn in a REAL WORLD environment, which is much more conducive to picking up useful and practical knowledge, not to mention 4 years experience is worth a hell of a lot more than 4 years of college, AND you instead of accumulating debt through student loans, you accumulate real money and never had any debt to begin with.

How do you think I have a house at 20 and the average college graduate around here is still paying off loans at 26-27?

It is makes MUCH more financial sense to enter the job market early, PROVIDED you have the right skills to get job placement, and you have the MOTIVATION to not slack off like you (and I) did in high school, and actually spend time bettering your skills (and your salary).

Just another 2 cents from an [income/property/school/etc] tax paying citizen.

[ Parent ]
It worked for me (5.00 / 2) (#41)
by Anonymous Hero on Fri Jul 21, 2000 at 12:33:32 AM EST

...but it was a long road. It can work out fine (I'm proof) but it does have costs.

I dropped out in grade 10. Took me a while to figure out what I wanted to do, so I ended up doing a little bit of everything. Took some stupid turns, ended up in rough straights for a while.

Anyways, to make a long story short --- I didn't die, and eventually I got bored. I ended up going back to school because, like you, I liked to learn. I fast-tracked my way through the high school stuff I missed. you can go really quickly if you challenge exams.

The up side?
I picked up a B.Sc., honours in physics and mathematics. Learned a lot of neat stuff, didn't have nearly as much bullshit to deal with. After that I did some coding in the valley; now I am back in school doing graduate studies in mathematics. Nobody who knew me on the street would believe that :) I have standing job offers for 6 figures, any time I get tired of being a poor student. Doesn't mean that much to me, but it is nice to know that it is there.

The down side?
You can end up taking a slide like I did, and you might not make it back. As far as scholarships and things go, it is definately harder when you don't fit the normal applicant profile. A co-op program can help a lot here (what I did --- and I would recommend it to anyone if it is a good uni.), and if you get good enough grades, after a year or two it won't matter.

If you want my advice: stick it out. 2 years only seems like a long time from where you are sitting. Find something (outside of school) to push you mentally... boredom is the worst part. Figure out the few of your teachers who have a clue and get them to help you look beyond the (probably pathetic) curriculum: they will probably jump at the chance.

I could go on but this is long enough. I will if you ask.

S. (can't seem to get my password mailed back)

passsword (OT) (none / 0) (#43)
by rusty on Fri Jul 21, 2000 at 01:49:09 AM EST

If you're having a problem getting an account set up, email me at rusty@kuro5hin.org and we'll try to clear it up. That goes for anyone else reading this too. Sorry for the OT though. :-)

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
Bwah! That's Boring so I won't do it! (3.30 / 3) (#49)
by Anonymous Hero on Fri Jul 21, 2000 at 09:50:11 AM EST

Employers who want graduates don't want the knowledge of theoretical operating systems design, they want someone who can put up with boring shit being thrown at them for a couple of years and make something of their time.

If you are finding School dull, moving into the world of jobs and money won't help. If you think a decade of lessons is dull, wait till you have to do 40 years of meetings and staring at the same computer for days on end. If you think your teachers don't understand you, wait till you meet your boss. And if you think your cleverer than everyone else, and are finding scholl hard because of it, you'll get nowhere in an office.

Make the most of school. I wish I could go back there, sure it was hard to pay attention, but you got time to goof around. You had your evenings free and if a report was late your teacher said "Oh well, bring it tommorow" rather than "That's the fifth report this month, you're fired!".

I know this sounds harsh, and you won't believe me until it's too late, but make the most of the time when you can be irresponsible, you'll miss it when it's gone.

Do I sense someone's in the wrong job? (4.00 / 1) (#51)
by kakodaemonos on Fri Jul 21, 2000 at 11:02:31 AM EST

Isn't that a bit of a fanatical comment?

Anyway, School isn't just boaring, it's also humiliating, arbitrary, and often pointless. If a workplace operated in the sort of mediocratic goals put forth by the school system (ie, your bos says, could you please file papers more slowly so Johny can keep up?), then it would soon die in a capitolistic environment. I wouldn't mind doing a semi-boaring job, I just hate working for no good end, and on things that aren't going to better me at all, and moreover, being forced to. I'm all but conditioned to think that I cannot leave school, whereas I can always leave my job if my bos is a jerk.

[ Parent ]

I sense it too. Think I know why. (none / 0) (#58)
by marlowe on Fri Jul 21, 2000 at 01:40:51 PM EST

Perhaps the single most dysfunctional thing I learned in school was that you have to put up with the crap that those in charge are dishing out. Until I unlearned that, my work life tended to suck. Poor Anonymous Hero has a lot of things to unlearn, I suspect. If only they didn't teach us anything in school. That would be an improvement. At least then we wouldn't have so many false notions crammed into our heads.
-- The Americans are the Jews of the 21st century. Only we won't go as quietly to the gas chambers. --
[ Parent ]
Sheesh! (3.50 / 2) (#52)
by kkeller on Fri Jul 21, 2000 at 12:14:48 PM EST

Just how old *are* you people, anyway? Is there anyone here over 40? Over 30?!?? Over 25??!??!? All I see is "I just graduated high school" and "Last year, my sophomore year..." and "I just learned to walk, and..."

I guess I'm officially old, eh?

Kids these days. They ain't got no respect. (none / 0) (#55)
by marlowe on Fri Jul 21, 2000 at 01:31:59 PM EST

They just don't listen. Oy.
-- The Americans are the Jews of the 21st century. Only we won't go as quietly to the gas chambers. --
[ Parent ]
Waaaa! (3.00 / 4) (#54)
by Alanzilla on Fri Jul 21, 2000 at 01:16:31 PM EST

Don't cry about how you don't like school and it's not meeting your needs. The quality of education you get is directly related to the amount of effort that you put into it.

You should be embarrassed to admit that you don't turn in homework. You say you're smart, but you're obviously not all that smart, or you'd be working hard instead of whining.

As an employer, I would never, ever hire someone who didn't finish high school. You haven't demonstrated the ability to do what is needed to get the job done.

You should be ashamed of yourself.

All the rest of the people telling you it worked for them should be ashamed of themselves, too.

Re: Waaaa! (5.00 / 1) (#74)
by forrest on Sat Jul 22, 2000 at 03:58:36 PM EST

The quality of education you get [in school] is directly related to the amount of effort that you put into it.

This facile formulation misses the nature of the problem. All the public school education I had was geared toward the average student, if not the dullest student in the class.

I spent countless hours sitting through explanations of concepts I understood perfectly well, and doing homework whose only real challenge was to tolerate the incredible boredom of having to show that I could solve a certain type of problem over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again.

(Not all of my classes were like that, but I'd certainly say that over half of them were.)

Maybe you were lucky enough to get a substantive education in high school, but it's simply not like that for a great many intelligent students.

(Did I just respond to a troll? Ooops ...)

[ Parent ]

Waaaa! (none / 0) (#84)
by Alanzilla on Mon Jul 24, 2000 at 12:24:46 PM EST

Maybe you were lucky enough to get a substantive education in high school, but it's simply not like that for a great many intelligent students.
The problem isn't "intelligent" so much as it is "lazy". This is just another flavor of the classic suburban middle-class teen angst.

Take some responsibility for yourself. Stop blaming "the system".


[ Parent ]
study abroad (5.00 / 1) (#57)
by ar0n on Fri Jul 21, 2000 at 01:37:56 PM EST

I'm roughly where you are now (16, and a senior this fall) and have contemplating the exact same thing.

I read in another post you were worried about paying for college.
One thing you could do is study abroad, like in [plug]The Netherlands[/plug]. We've got good colleges here, and everybody speaks English. Also, because of the socialist nature, education here is cheap: $2000 per year on a (higher) university level, and roughly $1500 per year on a normal (by american standards) college-level. Besides, a masters-education here is four years when you're on a university level.

Graduating Early (4.00 / 2) (#59)
by jbardhan on Fri Jul 21, 2000 at 01:41:46 PM EST

Have you thought about graduating from HS a year (maybe even two) early? My own experience in middle school and high school left a lot to be desired...so around freshman year, I decided that getting the hell out of Dodge was, by far, preferable to staying around. I chose to place out of a number of courses (the teachers were so bad that I couldn't bear the thought of 9 months under their "tutelage"), and started looking into the requirements for graduation even as a freshman.

I went to summer camps (such as the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth program) that allow students to teach themselves an entire year's worth of a high school-level course over a few weeks. Taking 2 years of math and 1 of chemistry, in addition to the credits I already had for placing out of courses, put me on the right track to graduate a year early. Which worked out well, because I had run through all the courses that my high school offered by then anyway.

Our small-town community college doesn't have that impressive a co-op/part time option, and I knew I wanted to go to a good 4 year school anyhow, so graduating early and getting on with my life was preferable to staying a fourth year in HS and getting oodles of credit that wouldn't transfer to a schools like MIT (from whence I just graduated), CMU, or Berkeley.

And if you're that bored with class...you could always try bringing in interesting stuff to read during school. I found that I could avoid boredom by doing homework for other classes, or by reading books on computer graphics. I may have gotten kicked out of class once or twice for that, but it's a small price to pay for sanity, IMHO.

Your mileage may vary, but I hope you find a solution which makes you happy. Let us know what you end up doing!

High school, shmigh school (5.00 / 2) (#60)
by Anonymous Hero on Fri Jul 21, 2000 at 02:11:21 PM EST

Officially, I have a grade 9 education. I never passed grade 9 English. I dropped out the first month of Grade 11. But somehow, I am 20 years old, own a house, a car, make a good living as a programming manager at a very successful software company, and even with my grade 9 English, I spend a good portion of my waking hours writing design documents for the programmers I manage. Does that seem odd? I thought about it a while back. I came to a few conclusions.

One note is that I live in Canada, so these points may not all apply to Americans.

The education system is designed for people that have little or no desire to learn on their own, and does not cater well to those who can learn at an accelerated pace, or who come to class knowing everything there is to learn ahead of time.

Yes, I skipped grades, but you can only skip so many grades. A 6 year old in Grade 5 would seem a little suspect. Even after skipping grades, I was still well ahead of my classmates. I always finished my work in class, and as such never was introduced to homework until I hit high school. Of course, it's difficult to get anyone to do homework, especially if one has gone through 10 years of school having avoided it.

So, aside from not doing work at home, the work itself, particularly any computer classes I found myself in, were uninteresting at best, and more often than not, utterly boring and sleep-inducing.

If the educational system only exists to condition students to cope in a work environment, someone should consider the fact that not all students are equal.

At any rate, I dropped out of Grade 11 around the time I turned 16. In the 4 years since, I have become manager of a programming department, in charge of my company's flagship product, I'm 1 year into my mortgage (which is $100,000 of a $150,000 house), I'm driving a brand new car (a VW Jetta, no less), and I have no intention of slowing down.

Morale of the story: School isn't for everyone. But if you drop out, you have to have the motivation to do something other than watch TV and hang out at the mall all day. I spent one Summer learning Linux (before it got huge, so there was nowhere to get help other than man pages, just like it should be =).

Re: High school, shmigh school (none / 0) (#66)
by balls001 on Fri Jul 21, 2000 at 04:11:58 PM EST

Posted anonymously by accident. Maybe I *should* go back to school =)

[ Parent ]
Just take a 6 year "vacation" (4.00 / 1) (#61)
by captaindrewle on Fri Jul 21, 2000 at 02:32:01 PM EST

You probably won't start learning anything interesting until your Junior year in college, so in the mean time, why not enjoy life? I would like to think that the right reason to drop out of HS or college is because you had a once-in-a-lifetime business offer that you couldn't pass up. You know, the tech jobs will still be there in 6 years, don't be in such a rush. Those people offering jobs are just using you to be their grunts. There are a lot more interesting jobs out there that won't let you in without some sort of degree.

Flirt with girls, take some road trips, etc etc.. Even if you don't actually learn anything, your personality will develop and mature which will help you a lot more than "how well you know java or unix system administration" right now. I can't think of any better time when you are old enough to spread your wings, but young enough to still be a dependant.

Just from personal experience, I can tell when talking to someone whether they've been to college or not. It doesn't matter what college or how smart they are, it's just going through the experience that makes them better.

Well, good luck in whatever you do!


College drones? (none / 0) (#68)
by balls001 on Fri Jul 21, 2000 at 04:54:51 PM EST

I work with a lot of college and university grads, some of which I manage. Yes, I can tell very easily that they've been to college, not by just TALKING to them, which I don't believe anyone can do, but by examining their work and watching how they approach problems. College (and all schools) teach students to do it one way, but unfortunately, it's not always the fastest and most practical way.

Problem solving does not appear to be a strong point with the guys I work with. I find myself spending a LOT of time outlining things very clearly and in explicit detail (I have to practically write 3/4 of the program) to make sure we hit deadlines. This is not for their lack of trying, but merely because they have been conditioned by 5 years of following the same process, which differs quite a bit from how we work in our development environment, which I like to think of as efficient, stream-lined, and fairly well organized.

Granted, one of my managerial counter-parts has also gone through arguably the best computer course in Canada (at Waterloo) and has incredible programming and managerial skills, but this is because both he and I meddled with computers outside of school a LOT, and he also was working as a developer at Nortel while he was in school.

He has also said on numerous occasions that the computer program was not overly useful, although it did have it's merits.

I would say that 15-18 is NOT the best time to just go goof off. In fact, I'd say it's the very WORST time. If you hit 18 and know the same as everyone else going into computer courses, you're just one of them, and they don't fare as well as the commercials say they do. Sure, they get job placement, but do they go anywhere beyond that? Not always.

At 19 or 20, having a steady full-time and well paying job, gives you an INCREDIBLE amount of freedom. I was working full-time as a SysAdmin at 17. It didn't mean I had no free time either. I got home maybe 2 hours later than I would have at school, but I got home with a large wad of cash, especially for a 17 year old. I moved out on my own at 17, now there's freedom. And if you bother to advance yourself, your salary should advance, your house and car should advance, and boom, your social status goes up.

I know saying I get tons of chicks on the Internet amounts to nothing, since there are hundreds of thousands of little skr1p7 k1dd13z saying they get mad 53x0rz every day, but you know, unless you are the stereo-typical uber-nerd with huge glasses and a pocket protector, how can you NOT score being the best-dressed guy your age driving a shiny new European sport-sedan =)

I think I may be overdoing the comments in this article, but I feel very strongly about the problems with the educational system, and I'd like to get the point across that it IS possible for enterprising young [former-] students to get ahead, and really go far.

[ Parent ]
Re: College drones? (none / 0) (#82)
by Anonymous Hero on Sun Jul 23, 2000 at 09:11:39 PM EST

"but by examining their work and watching how they approach problems. College (and all schools) teach students to do it one way, but unfortunately, it's not always the fastest and most practical way"

This is nonsense unless you're talking about

a) third, and to a lesser degree second tier universities
b) community college
c) crappy trade schools

Look in the first or second chapter of any introductory algorithms book. You'll find under analyzing algorithms or run-time analysis, methods of determining running time, worst case, average case, order of growth, and resources used depending on input size, ram, number of processors etc.

Any student who has gone through any half decent CS program will have covered these topics. How many self-learned individuals can say this?

As for software engineering, there are courses available to any 3rd or 4th year student that cover requirements, specifications, development models, general management, and statistical analysis.

[ Parent ]
If you can get into college, go (4.50 / 2) (#65)
by deanc on Fri Jul 21, 2000 at 04:06:32 PM EST

It's a little-known fact that you don't need a high school diploma to go to college-- you only need to get admitted to college, and your high school would probably be happy to count your college classes towards a high school degree that you can pick up along the way.

You can also enroll in a community college and pick up a high-school diploma that way and then transfer to a 4-year university after a year or two.

Of course, it works ideally when you've gotten quite good grades and exhausted all of the high school classes that are offerred before doing this, but you can still probably get away with it.


Re: If you can get into college, go (none / 0) (#75)
by Anonymous Hero on Sat Jul 22, 2000 at 10:59:58 PM EST

I did this. It is a very good idea. I wonder if everyone has the social maturity to go to college early, however. It is hard on you, no matter where you go. Milinar thecrow@world.std.com

[ Parent ]
High school (4.00 / 1) (#72)
by Anonymous Hero on Sat Jul 22, 2000 at 01:27:34 AM EST

I am sort of in the same situation as the poster of the article is. I'm 16 and I will be a Junior next year. I work, doing Linux development and system administration. Shool is extremely boring, exhausting and failure-full for me, but I dont see a way without it. I guess I will put a lot more effort (this year I put in none at all Junior year. If not, I'll try out an alternative program. I am worried and depressed a lot too, a college degree gives freedom of choice and a lot more, but at the rate I'm going at now, it would be hard.

High School Proficiency Exam - Important (5.00 / 1) (#73)
by Anonymous Hero on Sat Jul 22, 2000 at 02:10:54 AM EST

California (and possibly every state) has an exam you can take which is the legal equivalent of a high school diploma. You can get the application form from your high school counselor, or go to http://www.chspe.com/. As long as you're in California, it's a full diploma -- other states may or may not accept it.

As I recall, you can take it in the 2nd semester of 10th grade or when you turn 16, whichever is first. There are two dates you can take it, one in the Fall and one in the Spring every year.

NOTE that this is something they DON'T want to tell you about, because counselors are on a mission to maximize enrollment, and of course if the smart kids go, the standardized test averages go down for that school...

It's at about a 6th grade level. Once you pass, you may at your option leave high school. If you decide to re-enroll, they can't penalize you for it.

I took it and then enrolled in college full-time when I was 15. If you don't feel like you're gaining anything from high school, by all means take control of your own education.

High school (none / 0) (#78)
by /dev/null on Sun Jul 23, 2000 at 03:42:28 PM EST

(15, HS junior in the fall, manic depressive, love learning/hate HS) OK: High school is NOT designed for those who want to learn or excel. It is designed to democratically give everyone the same minimal level of education, about enough to flip burgers at your local McDonalds. Do not expect to be challenged there (except perhaps in AP classes), expect to be bored out of your mind. That said, look at what your state has to offer. I live in Washington (State), and there is a program available called Running Start which allows you to take community college courses full time while in high school, with tuition paid in full by the state. Also, try summer school. Not the remedial courses offered by your high school, but summer school at a college or university -- where the students in summer school are those devoted to their education, not trying to scrape up credits for graduation and football. Just my US $ 0.02

proud to be a high school dropout (none / 0) (#79)
by jaffray on Sun Jul 23, 2000 at 05:56:23 PM EST

I dropped out of high school after 10th grade, and started college when I was 15. I graduated with a BA in math after three years, did a year of grad school in mathematics, then decided that computers were more my speed and learned Unix and C and Perl and went off to do sysadmin and programming stuff. I'm now 25 and doing the usual obscenely-paid-computer-professional thing doing nifty stuff with cool people in a good workplace.

My advice?


If high school is boring you now, it will bore you even more next year, and the year after that. It will suck away your energy and enthusiasm for learning. In college you will be surrounded by more intelligent fellow students, you will encounter challenging material which will make you want to work to master it, and you will have a variety of other enriching experiences and opportunities.

I would advise you to go to college immediately; it sounds like you could still use the structure of an academic environment to give you motivation to get through some of the stuff with less immediate cool-value. Having a well-rounded education shouldn't be undervalued, nor should the social experience of college.

If you can't get into CMU now, go to a local junior college, or a less impressive university. But do try to transfer later, after a couple of years. Effectively you'll have done your last two years of high school at a REALLY GOOD high school - how could that be a bad thing, either for you personally, or from the point of view of CMU's admissions committee?

I made the mistake of finishing my BA at a mediocre university, since it was near home and simplest and would let me quickly get to what I (thought I) really wanted to do - math grad school. It was only after I got to the University of Chicago for grad school, and started spending more time with the undergrads there, that I realized the huge difference in the experience of going to a mediocre school and that of going to a great school. Having stunningly intelligent professors and TAs that you can talk to, and working and living with students who are as smart and interesting as you are, is just a really awesome thing. Fortunately I was able to sorta leech off the UofC social scene for a while after leaving grad school; I was, after all, the same age as most of the undergrads; so I didn't miss out on the experience entirely.

As for the high school diploma, nobody cares. Really. The only time in your life that you will be asked about a high school diploma is when you apply for college. A mediocre university will be so happy to have someone of your talent at their school that they will make an exception for you; it may take a couple of extra phone calls, but it is doable, especially if you get to know professors in your desired department and get them on your side; and a good university deals with people in your situation enough that it's not an issue. Everyone knows that grades aren't the only sign of intelligence or potential.

You don't mention what state you're in. I grew up in California, where you can take the CHSPE (CA High School Proficiency Exam) at age 16 OR after you finish grade 10. (Many of the bureaucrats overlooked that last bit and tried to tell me I was ineligible.) This is the legal equivalent of a high school diploma. I don't know if other states have such a thing, and unfortunatly the GED can only be taken once you're 18.

Anyway. Yes. Leave. Don't waste the next two years.

Feel free to share this response with your parents if you like, or ask me any questions you might have. My mom has also become a bit of an advocate for getting bright kids out of the high school machine, and knows a lot about dealing with the various bureaucracies involved; she would probably also be willing to talk to you or your parents if you like.

Best wishes,


I present myself as an example of what *not* to do (3.00 / 2) (#80)
by Anonymous Hero on Sun Jul 23, 2000 at 08:39:23 PM EST

The following may seem emotionally loaded, because it is:

You are not alone. At your age, my state of mind was identical. That said, with my experience today, I don't think my conclusions were valid. This ignorance led to two years of anxiety and temporarily crushed dreams.

At 15, I was on top of the world. I didn't even have to try, yet teachers constantly praised my intelligence. School, it seemed, was a bore. They didn't teach anything useful. I didn't need physics, biology or planar geometry. What a waste of time.

At 16, I drifted into angst, fueled by the negative feedback loop I had created. Like you, I wanted to go to an MIT or a CMU. I didn't know specifically why, but someone of my intelligence must be able to get there, if only I tried.

At this point, I had a year left of school. This year I would try. I wouldn't procrastinate; I wouldn't fall behind. I would score perfect on my SAT-II's. I would get into MIT.

But I didn't.

My procrastination, my arrogance, my denial, my lack of formal training; Combined, they led to the demise of my dreams.

My options now were: a) go to college and work my way up to university; or, b) major in something easy, like business administration.

I couldn't throw aside my arrogance and pride to do either. So I took a job at a software company doing data entry. All I had left now was my existence and faint hope. Someday I would do something with my life other than pushing macro keys all day.

Now, this story doesn't end in disaster, but it does get somewhat worse before the sun comes out, the storm dies, and my path became clear.

Enter friend and co-worker:

He, just like me, had only finished high school. He was 28, he drove a 20 year old car, and he lived in a tiny room in someone's basemint. He wasn't (and still isn't) qualified to go to University, and his parents had long cut him off, so he didn't have any money or time for books or re-learning everything he needed to know to pass an entrance exam for university (although he did have a brief stint at a small college). Unfortunately for him, he was expendable - and so, had to worry about paying the bills each week -- forget the patience to systematically re-learn everything. This made him sad, as was conveyed directly and indirectly in the conversations I had with him.

I had immediately recognized the parity in choices, but it took a while longer to recognize that this would be me in several years, unless I got my act together.

Since I'm running out of space here, I'll make it short. To gain entrance into University (CMU in my case), I had to:

* re-learn calculus, including simple differentials and derivatives
* actually learn physics this time around
* re-take SAT I (got 1460 first time, got 1530 second)
* re-take 3 SAT II's (received > 750 for all three)

This was a tortuous and exhausting process, given I was working from 9 - 5+ every night before starting my work. Luckily my state has an independent learning centre where I could receive credit while working in my own time, as it would be impossible otherwise. I also had help from several co-workers in understanding the calculus. Were it not for them, I would be lost, even despite my success with autodidact methods. And then there was entry. There was no hope at entrance of CMU until I met someone at the company I worked at, who used to be a professor there. He wrote a letter of recommendation and pulled a few strings so that I could gain entrance without credentials, so that I didn't have to wait until I was 21.

So here I am. The hard work was exhausting, and as much as I'd like to say it resulted in my goals acheived and doors opened -- it's not true. I was and am extremely lucky. I'm 20 and I'll be entering second year in the fall. I plan to declare a double major -- computer science and mathematics. I would have been a senior if I hadn't otherwise decided to take the metaphorical bumpy road out of stubbornness and ignorance.

I have learned a few things that you may or may not find useful:

* the oft repeated phrase, "you have to learn for your self -- school is only there to help you along" is true in the sense that you can slog through both high-school and university without actually learning much. It's up to you to determine how much you want to learn beyond the utter basics, immediate projects, and the final exam.

* If you're taking CS at a decent University, you'll definitely use most of the high school level material learned in the 11th and 12th grades. If I'm not mistaken, you will be taking pre-calc and basic calculus. Your math strength is a large determinant of your strength as a computer scientist. Understanding of physics will help your understanding of circuits, and therefore microelectronics and to a lesser extent computer organization. To get through "Introduction to Algorithms" you'll for sure need a solid background in at least high school mathematics (you'll be taking discrete mathematics parallel to into to data structures courses).

Anyway, my advice if you are, indeed, not a unapplied prodigy:

Hang in there. If it gets boring there are infinite subjects you can look into on your own. Having gone through all this before, good grades are not only important - you must also grasp all the material. Otherwise you may find yourself behind. This has happened to me because of the lack of focus in my recent youth, and I found I had to spend a lot of extra time iterating through a problem back to material I never learned properly in high school.

If you get bored there are a few probable options:

a) ask the teacher for extra work
b) study ahead on your own
c) make sure you've got down the requirements for University (I don't see why you still can't get into CMU if you work hard)

If you feel that high school is boring:

* the first few years of university are somewhat boring as well -- provided you only focus on what's being directly put in front of your face. In third and fourth year of a computer science major, you can take courses in robotics, ai, natural language processing/computational linguistics, databases, algorithm analysis, software engineering, Human-Computer Interaction (HCI), compilers, automa, agents, etc etc. In University you can investigate all these on your own time before actually taking said courses. That said, your courses will take a lot of time so you won't have too much time to do this. Know, however, that it's not recommended to start on page 50 when you should really be starting on page 1. We all like to believe that we can turn on our intelligence at will and perform extemporaneously -- but it's not true. Someone stepping up to a piano and playing a complex song impromptu has had years of training. The same goes for computer science -- or high school for that matter.

I mention the last point, because just the other day I noticed a second year student asking the question paraphrased, "we learn all these methods of proving or disproving theorums, but I can't see how this is helping my software design and coding abilities". What he doesn't see - and this is similar to your question - is that all the runtime analysis, multivariable calculus, euclidean geometry, sorting algorithms, linked lists, btree's, permutations, statistics, combinatorics, file structures etc, are directly related to being a good software developer.

Anyway, I'm rambling here. If you really feel you are capable of skipping the rest of high school, then I'm assuming you know about:

* basic calculus, including derivatives
* pretty good grasp of newtonian physics
* anything else you'll need to pass entrance exams to whatever University you wish to attend

If not, you can always spend the next two years:

* getting your grades up (i.e., actually applying yourself)
* searching out topics of interest outside of course material (such as, maybe, economics [may have to take macro or micro first year], learn a programming language, or two (otherwise you have to take an into programming course first year) or english literature, or psychology, or maybe just jump ahead in math and hard sciences) -- provided you are getting decent grades in the material already presented.

*cracks fingers*

Well that's 35 minutes of my point of view.

I'll end off with some stuff that may spark your interest:

http://www.gamasutra.com -- programming/computer science in games (path finding, design, 3d modelling, particle systems, artificial intelligence, development and design methodology, textures, etc). Click on the features section. They even have a cool post mortem section by leads and programmers of current games.


maybe look up:

Alan Turing
John Von Neumann
Richard Feynman

History of mathematics:


I spent an entire weekend once, reading through this site chronologically.

Or, just read biographies of people in the said industry you wish to get involved in. You'll then, therefore know what is potentially needed to meet said personal goals.

Of course, I'm only a student who has recently finished first year. If you look, you should be able to find many opinions that are more insightful and eloquent.

Some thoughts on surviving high school (none / 0) (#85)
by Anonymous Hero on Mon Jul 24, 2000 at 05:32:26 PM EST

Try to think past today. Two years seems like a long time, but it's not. Really.

Several people have suggested taking college classes for high school credit. I did this and I recommend this route. College classes move along much more briskly than their high school counterparts. The credit can do double duty, counting towards your college degree as well. Your classmates will regard you with some awe as a whiz kid. However, high schools have tightened up considerably since the late '70s (I'm dating myself here), so I don't know if this is an option.

Look into independent studies and cooperative education (credit for work). I also used these strategies to fulfill my requirements. All in all, I set foot in the high school building four times in my last two years, and I don't regret it one bit.

You need some leverage with powerful people (parents, teachers, administrators) to negotiate an alternative path through school. To get some, start taking your current schoolwork seriously. Being a diligent student buys you the credibility you need. At the very least, shoring up your grades can get you into AP classes. You might be cheek by jowl with Ivy League-bound goody-two-shoes, but ignore them. The caliber of work should be better.

The 'real world' is an improvement over high school. Don't give yourself an unnecessary handicap in it by denying yourself a high-school diploma.


High School | 86 comments (80 topical, 6 editorial, 0 hidden)
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