A Trojan among us

Junior Nate Werner sings at the End of the Year show
Junior Nate Werner sings at the End of the Year show

By Sharon Lee

Executive Features Editor

Receiving college mail was nothing new for junior Nate Werner.  So over the summer and into the fall, when he got a few different letters about an Honors program at the University of Southern California, he threw it in with his other college mail.  One day, he happened to look through his stack of college letters and came across the program.

The big words that read “Are you ready?  Why stay at high school another year?” stood out to him.  At first, it seemed as though Nate could just leave high school a year early.  He was unsure but curious about the program, so he looked more into it.

He found out that the University of Southern California sent out those letters to a specific group of high school juniors that they evaluated and thought to be academically proficient and “have the social and emotional maturity to function independently as USC college freshmen.” About a thousand students across the globe were offered the opportunity to apply.  Whoever wanted to apply could, and USC would accept about 20 to 40 students each year.

“I started seriously considering it,” Nate said.  “I am [always] looking to try new things and go to new places.  I have a passion for adventure, and it really struck me as a great opportunity.”

When Nate told his parents about the opportunity to go to college a year early, they were surprised that he was even considering it at first, but they were very supportive.  They decided they weren’t going to influence him one way or another and let him choose what to do with his future.

“We let him decide whether or not to apply, but we made it clear that whether he applied or not was his job, his responsibility, that we would not be nagging him about dates and deadlines,” Nate’s mom, Patti, said.  “I have a lot of confidence in Nate’s abilities and his maturity.”

Nate took it upon himself to contact USC and find the application.  He worked out scheduling for the SAT and sent his printed essays to USC with his resume.  In late March, Nate found out he was accepted to the program.

Although he was very excited about being leaving for college next year, Nate realizes that as with everything, there is an opportunity cost.

“Because of the program, it was definitely worth missing the bells and whistles of senior year,” Nate said.  “I already found a lot of success in terms of academics, music and performance at Prospect, so I won’t be missing out on too many of those opportunities.”

According to Patti, she can see that senior year is important because there are lots of experiences that he’ll remember forever and look back on fondly.

“But I don’t think Nate needs that,” she said.  “If he did, he would stay.  He recognizes that he’s giving up what could be a very fun year, and he’s OK with that.”

Nate said that if he had not applied for the program or if he had not been accepted, senior year would have been different in that he would have spent a lot of time exploring different colleges and scholarship opportunities.

“It was very odd for me to think about just choosing one school and not having to worry about applying to a lot of others,” he said.  “The qualities of this program and my readiness to be in college have sort of surpassed that.”

For the next year, Nate will be mainly focusing on general education, as well as just being part of the Resident Honors Program and getting a feel for the college.  He is uncertain about the year after that.

“Hopefully, I’ll be applying for the School of Cinematic Arts, because I have a dream of being a movie director, but I’m not really sure because I also want to do something with the sciences,” he said.