Time isn#039;t a factor for early college graduate

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 13, 2003

The time between graduating from high school and graduating from college really flies by.

It flew a little faster for Sarah Nichols.

Nichols, an 18-year-old student in Austin will be receiving two diplomas this week, a high school diploma and an associate of arts degree from Riverland Community College.

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With a combination of home-schooling and Post Secondary Education Option (PSEO) classes, Nichols has gotten two years of college classes finished in the time it takes most students to get through high school.

"The PSEO program has been great because I've really gotten two years of college for free," she said.

Making the national Dean's list while taking 19 credits a semester, plus piano, violin, chorus, plays and volunteer activities around the city and world, Nichols has already led a full life. She said the experience has strengthened her convictions as a Christian as well as a career person.

"I've really decided what I want to be as a person," she said. "I've become stronger in what I know and believe."

Nichols said home schooling has given her opportunities to combine different areas of study with real-life experiences.

She has traveled the Oregon Trail, gone to major World War I and II sites in Europe and worked with a dentist in the Amazon, among other things.

"That's one thing that I loved about it that I couldn't have done in public school," she said.

She said the Amazon experience was particularly challenging.

She was not able to get all the vaccinations she needed before going on the trip. The doctor told her she would be fine as long as she stayed away from blood. When she found out she would be working in a dentists office, with syringes and pulled teeth, she got a little nervous.

"I ended up praying hard and working over there, hoping I didn't get stabbed or anything," she said.

Nichols wants to continue traveling and says her dream job would be writing for National Geographic magazine. She plans on double majoring in journalism and piano next year at a four-year college. Right now she's leaning toward Pensacola Christian College in Florida.

She said she has enjoyed the small-school experience and wants to continue it.

"I like to be able to know people and make friends with a lot of people," she said. "Riverland was good for that … not everyone you see is a stranger," she said.

Matt Merritt can be reached at 434-2214 or by email at matt.merritt@austindailyherald.com