(Copyright 1999. All rights reserved.)

The Tattoo

--- Making a Permanent Impression Since 1994 ---

March 29, 1999

--- Opinion ---

My escape: college at 16

The Tattoo

I felt trapped in high school. The cliques, unsatisfying
choice of classes, lack of inspiration and creativity,
and absence of freedom made me dread getting out of
bed in the morning. I used to think I didn' t have a
choice but to be there. I was wrong.
By the time I was a sophomore I was in a desperate
search for alternatives to high school. I was coming
up with nothing. The only other path was to drop out,
and that wasn' t what I wanted. Then one day out of
nowhere my chance arose. 
My mother had heard someone talking about an early
college. She retained only the name. Simon's Rock.
Ten minutes after she told me I was on the Internet
looking for it. As I read the information on the web
site my heart beat faster and faster. This was my
Simon's Rock College of Bard was founded upon the
belief that 16 and 17 year olds are capable of college
work. They accept students primarily out of 10th and
11th grade and enroll them in a college program. It is
located in Great Barrington, Massachusetts.

At the end of two years, an AA degree is earned. At
this point, most students transfer to regular colleges to
continue their studies.  

Basically, you get to skip the rest of high school and
head to college. 

Yes, that's right. I'm 16 and I' m in college.
Explaining that is probably one of the most difficult
things about being here.

Classes here are small and discussion oriented.
Everyone is required to take certain core subjects, but
are free to choose what classes they take to
accomplish that. Freshmen meet with an advisor on a
regular basis.

Dorm life is interesting, to say the least. To jump
from having mom and dad downstairs to having total
freedom and being surrounded by your friends 24
hours a day is quite a jump. 

I live in an all girls dorm, primarily of freshman. I
have a roommate, as do all freshmen. Pretty much
every college stereotype is applicable here, from loud
music to socks on doorknobs. 

The workload is not too bad, but its certainly more
than high school. I have a few hours of class each
day, and about the same of homework, projects, and
I have absolutely no regrets about leaving high school
and coming to Simon' s Rock. I was never a
cheerleader, nor was I going to be. I wasn't going to
go to prom. I wasn' t looking forward to being a
senior, or even a junior. I didn' t like the entire
atmosphere of it.

However, Simon's Rock is not a school for everyone.
It is definitely not for those who are just looking to
get out of high school. You need a motivation to get
somewhere, not just to get away from somewhere. 

This student body is the most interesting and creative
bunch I have ever seen. Because this is an alternative
school, it draws a specific type of kids. There is lots
of hair dye, piercing, vegetarianism, veganism,
political activism, and opinions. 

Of course, everything has a downside.   

With all of this comes a certain arrogance. Kids tend
to let it go to their heads that they' re doing
something special.  

Also, the school is very small. There are
approximately 350 students, most of which are
freshman and sophomores. There are very few secrets
on campus. 

Because of the so-called " rumor mill"  everyone
knows everything about you.

Also, the fact that Great Barrington is so small and so
boring leaves kids with time on their hands. Most fill
it with drinking and drugs.
Not having to deal with parents searching for
bloodshot eyes and odorous breath also adds to that. 

Another negative aspect of this school is that it
creates a tight-knit community that is unlike the real
world. Thus, we tend to loose sight of reality. We are
rarely even aware of current events.

But I think dealing with those things is worth it for
the opportunity I've been given.

Being here now is the smartest thing I've ever done.