Ask Test Masters: Early Graduation & International Studies

Ask Test Masters is a great, free service that allows you to ask the experts at Test Masters all of your test prep and college admissions questions. If you have a question, send it to us – chances are other people are wondering the same thing. Reader Partha asked:

“I will be graduating from school at the age of 16 as I am on the fast trek program of the school and I have done my grade 7 & 8  + 9 & 10 together. Will my young age be a problem in university admission? I checked with many university and they are of the opinion that we do not discriminate any one on age/sex/race religion etc. However, I need your opinion. I am Indian and studying with AP program school in Bangkok Thailand.

My next question is: is it better to do more AP subjects or better to do AP International diploma? My school is not offering AP English & French, which is required to get the AP diploma (the two languages I know), but my school is offering Biology/U.S History? government?Chemistry – I wish to take business subject as major – I already cleared AP World History and AP Micro Economics – currently I am in 11th grade and doing AP Calculus BC and Macro Economics. Please advise in my final year what I should do – 2 Languages or 2 Science us history – what is acceptable more in IVY and other high ranked colleges and universities?”

Dear Parth,

First of all, congratulations on completing your lower education curriculum so quickly!

The Equal Protection Clause in the 14th Amendment provides that every person is entitled to equal protection under the law.

To answer your first question: in the United States it is illegal to discriminate against a qualified candidate based on race, age, gender, religion, etc. In the context of an admission decision, you will not suffer because you are younger than other applicants. In fact, most if not all the universities you apply to will be duly impressed with your academic achievements. That being said, there are a number of other factors you should consider before deciding where and when to pursue a higher education.

Though your age might be an advantage when it comes to admissions, it might be a disadvantage in a larger context. The most important obstacles you encounter at the university level occur in the classroom; however, you should understand that not all the challenges you face in college will be academic. This is especially true for an early graduate, and doubly so for an international student. Our main concern is that you would suffer due to your cultural and real-world inexperience.

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There is a financial challenge to consider as well; again, this is especially true for international students. A full scholarship might not be entirely out of the question for a student of your caliber; however, there are areas of financial costs associated with a higher education beside just tuition. These include things like books and fees (the costs of college other than tuition), room and board (where will you stay?), living expenses (what will you eat?), as well as other more superfluous costs, like entertainment costs (will you be able to afford to go to the movies?).

Your involvement with AP programs is excellent! Earning as many college credits as possible is something we absolutely encourage! Our advice is you should continue to

College Board, the same company that administers the SAT, is also responsible for initiating the Advanced Placement program.

pursue college credit, either through online courses, which many American universities offer, or through additional AP classes. We feel this option could potentially answer most if not all of our concerns. Not only would this allow you to shorten your time spent at an undergraduate institution, which would greatly reduce the cost associated with attending it, but it would also give you time to mature, which might lead to an easier transition period when you do eventually start taking classes in the US. In addition to continuing to earn college credit, you could spend this time creating a nest egg for financial security. Also, if you wait until your 18th birthday it might be easier for you to not just find a job but to learn to juggle the dual responsibilities of simultaneously working and going to school should you need to.

Talk to your parents! They might actually be able to help!

If waiting is not an option and finances are not a problem, then our advice is simple: TALK TO YOUR PARENTS! Is there a chance either your mom or dad could travel and live overseas with you, at least for your first year? This would certainly ease the cultural transition of living in a new country; it would also give you a chance to “learn the ropes” of living alone before you actually have to. Either way, hopefully your parents can give you valuable insight and advice on what is best for you going forward. In a worst case scenario, you can always apply to your school of choice this year and (if accepted) defer attending for a year.

As for your second question: which AP courses should you take? The answer, of course, is it depends. If you are determined to apply to an Ivy League undergraduate business school, you should certainly prioritize AP Math and Language classes. These classes would demonstrate to admissions officers not just a capacity to succeed in the numbers-oriented world of business, but also an ability to communicate that success across any potential language boundaries. Unfortunately, it appears from your email that your school is not offering AP English or French, which are the two languages you would be most comfortable taking at the AP level. If this is the case, our advice is to NOT sign up for an advanced language class if you are not comfortable with the subject. Do NOT sacrifice your GPA and a high class ranking in an effort to impress a university admissions officer; signing up for an AP class you are not comfortable with could potentially backfire!

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If AP Language is not an option and you have already taken the most advanced AP/BC Math class your school offers, then you will need to decide between taking a social science class (like History) or a physical science class (like Biology). Our advice is relatively straightforward: most Ivy League schools will require applicants take at least one, probably two SAT Subject Tests. You should take the AP class most closely associated with the SAT Subject Test you are planning on taking. If you are planning on taking a SAT Biology Subject Test, take AP Biology; if you are planning on taking the SAT History Subject Test, take AP History. However, you should remember: the greater range you demonstrate as an applicant, the more likely you are to be accepted. (Hint: why not take one Social Science and one Physical Science?)

There is one caveat you should be aware of when it comes to taking SAT Subject Tests: most Ivy League schools ask students whose first language is not English to take their SAT Subject Tests in a subject other than their native language. For example, the webpage listing the requirements for undergraduate applicants to Harvard University cautions, “Candidates whose first language is not English should ordinarily not use a Subject Test in their first language to meet the two Subject Tests requirement.” This means, for example, if you are a native French speaker you should NOT take the SAT French Subject Test.

Hope this helps!

If you need any more help with the SAT or SAT Subject Tests, the experts at Test Masters are available year-round for all your testing needs!

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