Starting a college career is a life-changing experience for any first-time student. This is the first time many are away from their hometown. While freshmen have a lot to learn in general, it is typical for these freshman to be legally considered adults.

Freshman Dora Lott is an exception to this traditional perception. 

Lott is a 16-year-old mathematical education major attending the Teachers College.

She chose Ball State to continue her academic career due to the location and scholarships. Like many freshmen, Lott has experienced first-time student apprehension, but unlike many freshmen, she skipped two grades in elementary school.

“Well I remember first grade," Lott said. "I often helped the teacher. I helped people read things because they were all 6 or 7 and couldn’t do it by themselves and so I would sit over their shoulders and help them pronounce words they couldn’t pronounce when they had to read out loud."

As an elementary school student, Lott discovered her future career path through watching her teachers and later on discovering her love for math through taking algebra, geometry and trigonometry.

"I just was like, ‘What do I want to do with my life?’ And I somehow settled on math teacher," Lott said. "I kind of just adapted to the idea and I’m pretty excited about it."

Since Lott stepped foot on campus, she has received a lot of attention through emails from people who share her experience.

“Just in the last two weeks just after the articles about me had been posted [from the Star Press], I’ve actually gotten two emails from people who started their college career at 16," Lott said. "Last week it was a professor. She didn’t start here, but she went to college at 16 and then another student, a sophomore here who’s only 17, emailed me just yesterday. So ... as people are starting to recognize me for my accomplishments, people are coming out and like saying like, ‘Hey, I also did this.’"

While Lott has been the only student recognized by the Star Press and the university magazine, she is not alone in her early start endeavors. 

Sophomore accounting major Kailey Luke began her career at Ball State when she was 16. She too skipped two grades during her elementary years.

Luke acknowledged that she might have been bored in her classes, but it was a push from her childhood principal that brought her into college two years early. Not only did she start college at a nontraditional age, but she also graduated from high school a semester early.

After taking a semester to work and prepare for college, Luke found herself joining the Class of 2019 at Ball State.

"I considered Ball State because I went to Burris, which is down the street, and my dad’s a professor here. So, Ball State was a really good option, especially financially," Luke said. "I’ve practically grown up here my entire life so it’s always felt like home."

Not every nontraditional first-time student began college early because they skipped two grades.

Dual-credit programs allow students to complete their high school core requirements while also receiving a similar credit for a college course. 

Senior general studies major Nyesha Canady was enrolled in the 21st Century Charter School in Gary, Indiana, where she was encouraged to enroll in dual credit courses.

Canady began attending Ivy Tech when she was a sophomore in high school and ended up graduating with her associate degree, without student loan debt, before she graduated with her high school diploma.

“I started with a couple of math classes because that’s my strongest point, [hence] my minor. So, they started with a couple of math classes and they threw in psychology, that’s why I kinda like both of them now,” Canady said.

Senior anthropology and archeology major Silas Chapman's academic career similarly reflects Canady's. 

Chapman started high school when he was 15 and had the opportunity to enroll in college courses for free while still fulfilling his high school diploma requirements; however, he did this all from the comfort of his own home.

"Being homeschooled, one might think I had trouble adjusting academically. That wasn’t really the case," Chapman said in an e-mail. "I had no problem adapting to self-disciplined learning environment of a college." 

One nontraditional student success story can be found with Rayasia Miles. 

Miles, a Ball State grad completed her criminal justice degree in 2015, when she was 19. 

Miles began her college career early on accident — she recalls just having enough credits to graduate early. This again happened when it came time to graduate from Ball State. Miles completed her degree within three years.

While she may not have been able to indulge in the social aspect of college as much, Miles credited her devotion to her academics as the reason why she has gotten to where she is today in life. Miles is currently an active member of the military and is enrolled in law school at Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law.

“There was some things I didn’t get the opportunity to do because I was so devoted to my academics, but overall it was a great experience and everything that I’ve done academically has helped me to where I’m at today,” Miles said.