Kyleigh Kinsella walked into her first college classroom in August 2017 at age 16. She had completed homeschooling courses less than a month before and quickly fell in love with the challenges of college classes.
Kyleigh began homeschooling when she was in ninth grade. Though she enjoys learning, she had become bored with school and was no longer stimulated by her classes. Homeschooling allowed her to move quickly through the subjects that came easily so she could spend more time on more challenging work. That was the best part, she said, and it prepared her for college.
“The independence of homeschooling helped aid my time management skills to take on all of my college courses,” she said. “I was able to work at my own pace but still had to meet deadlines.”
According to the National Home Education Research Institute, there are approximately 2.3 million homeschooled students in the United States. Their research has found that homeschooled students typically score higher than public school students on standardized academic achievement tests and above average on the SAT and ACT.
Kyleigh is attending Cayuga Community College in New York, where she joined Phi Theta Kappa in the spring of 2018. She begins the nursing program this fall, and she’ll graduate in spring 2020 — at age 18 — as a registered nurse. She hopes to work in the emergency room.
“When opportunity knocks, you have to open the door,” she said. “I was honored to receive an invitation to be part of such a scholarly group of students.”
College hasn’t completely been without its challenges, though. Because of her age, she is afraid to try out for sports teams on the college level. Initially, she even kept her age a secret.
One day, her Anatomy and Physiology classmates — who had nicknamed her “The Smart Girl” — were talking about driving, high school, and their senior years. Kyleigh sat there quietly. As they looked to her to join the conversation, she admitted that she was only 16 and had only recently received her driver’s permit.
“I was a little embarrassed, but they kept my secret for me and made little comments about how I was so young but so smart,” she said. “That gave me a boost of confidence.”
Though she’s a self-described “social media junkie,” Kyleigh is enjoying the in-person social aspect of college — hanging out with others between classes, going for donuts, and taking walks on the campus’ nature trail. She has reconnected with old friends and made many new ones.
Outside school, Kyleigh is a certified interior and exterior firefighter who serves with the Mottville Volunteer Fire Company in New York. She plans to add “emergency medical technician” to her resume as well.
She races dirt bikes, and she’s an avid snowmobiler — she volunteers for the Weedsport Winter Wanderers Snowmobile Club. She also volunteers at a daycare.
Kyleigh isn’t the first younger-than-average student to attend college, and she knows she won’t be the last. As her second year begins, she’s feeling more comfortable and confident, and her advice for other young students is simple: “Be yourself. In college, nobody judges you.”
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