Teen earns college degree before graduating high school

·3 min read

May 27—Hours after accepting her diploma from South Central College, Abby Tarrant was on the mound pitching for the Janesville-Waldorf-Pemberton High School Bulldogs.

Tarrant has attended college full time the last two years, earning an associate degree before she earns her high school diploma.

She has not attended a high school class since she was a sophomore, but playing softball and participating in other activities have kept her connected to her school.

"I still got to do a lot of the traditional high school experiences," she said.

Tarrant started taking classes at SCC when she was a high school sophomore through Postsecondary Enrollment Options.

The state program, known as PSEO, allows high school students to take college classes at no cost. There are some eligibility requirements. Participants must apply and be accepted to a college or university, and they must take classes that fulfill their high school's graduation requirements.

Tarrant started by taking one college class each semester, which is the maximum allowed for a sophomore, because she wanted to "get a jump start" on college and save on tuition costs.

She decided to go full time as a junior and senior when she realized earning an associate degree would guarantee all her credits would be transferable to any college at which she chose to continue her postsecondary education.

The Janesville teen next is headed to the University of Northern Colorado to complete a bachelor's degree. Ultimately she wants to earn a doctorate in audiology, which she plans to complete in six to seven years.

She's a bit nervous about moving so far from home but has no doubt she'll succeed in her classes thanks to her "jump start."

In addition to getting ahead and saving tuition costs, Tarrant said her PSEO experience has given her confidence as well as other benefits.

She said the classes and the classmates from diverse backgrounds gave her a broader understanding of the world beyond her own small town.

"It helped me expand my world view in so many ways," she said.

Tarrant also has learned time management skills as she juggled classes, extra-curricular activities and part-time jobs.

She chose to take mostly online classes because they allowed maximum flexibility for work and activities.

But that flexibility also required self-determination.

Self-setting progress deadlines and times to study were key, she said, along with not allowing herself to procrastinate or get distracted.

"It was so worth everything I had to do to make this happen," she said.

To younger teens considering PSEO, she recommends they start with a class or two and be prepared to work hard independently but not be afraid to ask for help from school counselors or other school staff.

She'd also suggest they stay involved in activities at their high school. Being involved provided her with a creative outlet and time to be with her friends and forget about the stresses of classes, she said.

Along with playing softball, Tarrant has performed in several of her high school's theater productions.

"Abby has always shown excellence and determination in everything that comes her way," said band and theater director Adam Hille. "Her musical talents and the ability to analyze not only what she's singing, but what the music is doing have been impeccable."

Before she accepts her second diploma on Friday, Tarrant was selected to sing the national anthem for the Janesville-Waldorf-Pemberton graduation ceremony.

Softball coach Megan Christopher called Tarrant exceptional.

"She lives with a sense of inner elegance and is graceful even amidst a challenge," Christopher said. "Her energy has a mystery, softness, strength and cleverness to it. Her character is authentic, and I can tell that others feel compelled to trust, emulate and follow her."