Whiz kid Here's one teen who doesn't mind skipping high school.

August 30, 1996

KATE FLANAGAN is still a child at 15, but her mind and academic ability have matured beyond her years. The Columbia teen doesn't believe she will miss out on teen-age experiences as she bypasses her sophomore through senior years at Wilde Lake High to advance straight to college.

After spending her freshman year at Wilde Lake, she concluded: "The high school scene is not that appealing to me." In saying this, she challenges the notion that the high school years are life's most memorable. The social scene in high school is glorified in pop culture, and time has embellished many a middle-ager's recollection of the teen years.

In reality, teen-agers often find themselves caught in that titanic conflict between being good students and being popular, two goals that at times seem mutually exclusive.

Kate, apparently, didn't get snared in this struggle. She chose academics. She spends leisure time with such activities as reading Newsweek magazine cover to cover and discussing politics and global issues. She attended a homecoming during her one year in high school and says she can't imagine a senior prom being much different.

Her academic ability gave her a chance to avoid high school peer pressure. She is participating in a program at Mary Baldwin College in Staunton, Va., that allows "exceptionally gifted" girls to begin college one to four years early. As a seventh-grader, she scored 1,120 on the Scholastic Aptitude Tests, good enough to catch the attention of administrators at Mary Baldwin, a small women's liberal arts school.

A freshman biology student this year, she may face peer pressure, but it more likely will be to learn medical phrases than to be fluent in the latest street vernacular. She hopes to attend the University of Maryland Medical School after she finishes college.

There is the possibility, of course, that Kate will look back with some regret she doesn't contemplate now. Although high school experiences outside the classroom can be overrated, they are important in producing well-rounded adults. Even teen peer pressure can be positive, despite its connotation. Kate, an exceptional young woman, will truly be fortunate if she can enjoy some childhood joys while pursuing her accelerated academic goals.

Pub Date: 8/30/96

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