Jury Is Out on Success of Youngest Collegians


Whether academically gifted young students who go to college early fare better in life remains a question.

A study affiliated with the Center for Talented Youth at Johns Hopkins University and now being continued at Vanderbilt University is tracking more than 5,000 students as they progress through life.

So far, of 1,153 students responding to questionnaires, many have stayed in academia and are now teaching and researching at universities scattered across the country. There are surgeons who were able to start practice in their 20s. There's someone crunching numbers for the U.S. Department of Defense by day and keeping score at major league baseball games at night. There was at least one person delivering pizzas.

One former student, Jonathan Edwards, disappointed mentors in 1974 when he abandoned studies at John Hopkins, and then Massachusetts Institute of Technology, just a few credits shy of a degree. But he says his destiny was among the pioneers of the computer age, and at that time the computer age was taking off at high speed.

"Computer science was a vibrant new field with a lot of opportunities, a lot of freedom for innovation," he said. "Nowadays you wouldn't be given that opportunity."

Edwards, now a 44-year-old father of three, is chief technology officer for Intranet, a 20-year-old Massachusetts-based firm he helped launch that specializes in online currency transfers. He never did get his bachelor's degree--or a junior high school diploma.

Still, Edwards is thankful that Julian Stanley, the psychologist who started the Johns Hopkins program, pulled him out of public school.

"In my case, it was the right thing to do," Edwards said. "Junior high school was for me a boring, hellish place."

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