Adapted from a recent online discussion.
DEAR CAROLYN: I’m a high-school junior and I hate it. I am not bullied, but I don’t have a lot of friends and the whole thing is just ridiculous.
I am already taking a few AP courses and finally talked to my guidance counselor today about graduating early. He said I can if I really buckle down, take on some independent study and do one GED requirement class online. School is pretty easy for me, and I don’t have any other distractions.
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I also need my parents’ permission, but I don’t think they’ll let me. They know how unhappy I am, but keep saying how this is the last carefree time of my life, and I should enjoy it.
I’m not, and I won’t. If I graduate early, I can start classes at community college. My plan is to build up enough credits that I can transfer to a four-year school as a junior and save a lot of money. Then I won’t have huge debt.
I realize my plans could change, but I still want to finish high school and get on with my life. How can I convince them that these aren’t the best years of my life?
— Want to Move On
DEAR WANT TO MOVE ON: You don’t “think” they’ll let you. I see the same trail of breadcrumbs you’re seeing, but that’s still not the same thing as knowing how your parents will respond.
That’s point 1. Point 2, you have a guidance counselor who knows at least the outline of your situation. Any chance you can fill in some details and get more guidance on the parent-management side?
Point 3, what about a gap year? That walks the line between what you want — the heck outta there — and what they want — to make sure you don’t exit your youth prematurely. The guidance counselor might be a resource here, and creativity can minimize the costs.
Point 4, one of the most powerful tools of persuasion is to understand and acknowledge your parents’ concerns. If you approach it by dismissing each of their points, then you’re just playing into a perception that you’re too young to know what’s best. If you say, “I understand, you’re afraid I’ll look back someday and wonder why I was in such a rush to stop being a kid. And you might be right about that — I won’t pretend I can see the future. The thing is, though, I’m not enjoying being a kid at this time at this school, and I’m hoping you’ll help me find a way to finish out these years that suits me — even if it’s not what you’ve had in mind.”
If you set up a great “business plan,” present it to your parents calmly and humbly, and yet they are unmoved by it, then one option is to request that they let you satisfy the graduation requirements anyway and still remain for your senior year (if it’s possible to do that). That way, you’d have the academic flexibility to take at least some college courses as a senior.
I’ll cross my fingers for you. I’m a believer in education by association — as in, what you learn from immersion in campus life — but I also get that it’s not always guaranteed, practical or suited to every life.