First-year psychology and classical languages major, Kelsey Mahoney, came to Miami University excited about all that college had to offer, but understood beforehand that her college experience would differ from the majority. After all, she's 16, and being at least two years younger than most first-year students in a college town is not always easy.
Mahoney attempts to have the college experience she's always wanted by looking at her age as an opportunity, rather than a hindrance. Instead of participating in the common party culture present at many universities, Mahoney spends her time paving a path for success after graduation.
As a little girl, Mahoney always knew she was gifted. Every academic year, she was recommended by her teachers to skip to the next grade. Initially, she and her mother decided not to advance her education, in fear that the change may be too drastic. But Mahoney's attitude toward school quickly began to change.
"I was not being challenged -- to the point [that] I wasn't even motivated to do my homework," Mahoney said. "Why would I do homework that I already know how to do? It seemed completely pointless."
With her struggle in mind, Mahoney's grandfather heard through one of his law clients about Covington Latin School in Covington, KY. The high school is college-preparatory and, according to Mahoney, the majority of the students who attend have skipped at least one grade in their academic careers. In order to enroll, prospective students are required to take a placement test.
As a fifth grader, Mahoney took the placement test and was recommended to skip directly to her freshman year of high school.
Despite the recommendation, Mahoney decided to only move to the eighth grade. She thought the process of integrating to a new school would be easier if all of the students were in a similar situation.
"Everyone coming into school didn't know each other," Mahoney said. "I thought this would be a really good opportunity to start on the same playing field as everyone else. And I'd be challenged in school, which is what I wanted."
Mahoney, a Cincinnati native, always had college in her sights. Her aunt went to Miami, and Mahoney remembers coming to campus at a young age. She has fond memories of going Uptown to You're Fired and Bagel & Deli. The Oxford area was familiar to her and was ultimately the reason she chose Miami over other universities, like the University of Dayton and The Ohio State University, both of whom offered her full-tuition scholarships.
At Miami, she has found that making friends can be difficult. She's always been open about her age, but feels it factors into some of the relationships she makes.
"Making friends is not the easiest thing, because I'm the person who gets along well with people who go out Thursday, Friday and Saturday," Mahoney said. "[But] I can't go out. I'm not going to get a fake. I don't want to. It's not worth the trouble."
This year, she became a member of Phi Mu and has found that she is unable to participate in many of the traditional sorority activities such as date parties at the Uptown bars. She was not able to participate in her sorority formal, because the venue did not allow anyone under the age of 18.
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Mahoney notices that her older friends are watchful over her. Although she appreciates their concern, she also said there are downsides.
"My closest friends here are very protective of me because I am young. One thing that I don't like is that they feel that have to scream, 'She's 16!"' to everyone," Mahoney said, "or the 'Oh, I have to take care of you because you're a little baby' thing. I like it because I feel that I have people who are protective over me, but at the same time, I'm in college just like you are."
In addition to being a part of her sorority, Mahoney is also the secretary of Tappan Hall's Community Leadership Team (CLT) and volunteers at food shelters in the surrounding area.
"At my high school, you had to have 20-25 [volunteer] hours depending on what grade you were in. Because I wasn't old enough to have a job [in Oxford], I volunteered instead," Mahoney said.
Mahoney refuses to let her age hold her back from seizing every opportunity. She is unsure what exact career she wants to pursue, but hopes to graduate early in three years, when she's 19.
"Once I'm out, I'm out," Mahoney said. "The quicker you get out of college, the quicker you get to work and pay off debt ... College is important, but life after college is also important. The earlier I get out of college, the quicker I get to enjoy it. I just wanna make sure whatever I'm doing is with people, and I'm able to make them feel like who they are is the best that they can be."