Media fanfare marked Sydney Wilson’s arrival at Spelman College back in the fall when, at 14, she became the youngest student on campus.
And the successful completion of her first semester just a few weeks ago, when she earned mostly A’s and one B, likely will receive much attention, as well.
But in between, the teenager said, she had a “rollercoaster” experience as she adjusted to college life.
“It wasn’t the academics as much as the social aspect and being away from my family and getting used to a complete lifestyle change,” said Sydney, who is from Stonecrest in south DeKalb County.
Though she lived on campus, she spent weekends at home at the beginning. But little by little, she started making friends and becoming more comfortable with living on her own.
Sydney enrolled in a full course load, which included biology, Spanish, philosophy and calculus classes. College-level classes, she found, were far more rigorous than her studies in high school.
Her acceptance into the college in the spring of last year, when she was 13, garnered national attention, with media outlets across the country — from Philadelphia to New York to Houston — featuring the brilliant, college-bound teen.
Ingrid Hayes, vice president of the school’s enrollment management, said it’s possible Sydney is the youngest to ever attend classes there.
When taking breaks from her studies, Sydney said she enjoys going to the gym and cooking with friends. Over the holiday break, she is enjoying time with her family, watching shows on Netflix and studying for Medical College Admission Test.
Growing up, she said, she rarely watched TV, with the exception of animal documentaries. She loved being outdoors — digging in the dirt, searching for bugs and frogs, pretending to make food out of leaves. She went to a Montessori school until she was about 6. She and her family credit that schooling with putting her on a pathway to success.
She mastered algebra in the first grade.
After Montessori school, Sydney was home schooled for a couple years, then attended a private school.
But by the time she was 10, it was clear she didn’t need to be in elementary school. She was academically ready for in high school. So Sydney, who is one of five daughters, started attending the school her father founded. By the time she was 12, she was studying advanced placement biology and world history.
In the past, she said, she sometimes struggled to fit in with other kids — those her age, as well as older students.
The age difference as Spelman posed challenges.
“I was super nervous at first about a lot of things,” she said. “I calmed down and came around to meeting new people and letting it happen. … I am not as nervous as I used to be. I am looking forward to this semester. I think this is a testament to my growth.”
She said, for the most part, her classmates don’t realize she is so much younger than them. When they do, they are either surprised, or remember reading stories about her coming to Spelman.
Spelman College is No. 51 on the 2019 U.S. News & World Report’s list of the Best National Liberal Arts Colleges, tying with Agnes Scott, Dickinson and Rhodes colleges, as well as Furman University.
Spelman was also listed as No. 1 among Historically Black Colleges and Universities for the 12th year in a row and was included on the list of the nation’s most innovative liberal arts colleges.
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