Article Published June 15, 2003
He’s Only 17, But He’s a College Grad
Homeschooled Teen Takes Aims Degree
Story by Heather Pitzel
Seventeen-year-old Michael Brandt said he didn’t know whether he’d be wearing a cord or anything at his Aims Community College graduation on Saturday.
“I’ve never been to a graduation before,” said Michael, who was homeschooled and started attending Aims when he was 14.
Having just finished three finals, Michael said he was still dazed. It usually takes two or three days before he realizes he’s really done.
“Sometimes I think it’d be better to not have breaks,” said Michael, about one of 800 Aims graduates. Of those, about 225 participated in the ceremonies Saturday.The Windsor teen will enter the Colorado School of Mines as a junior majoring in mechanical engineering in the spring, so no break for him this summer. Michael plans on taking more classes at Aims: Calculus 4 over the summer and Differential Equations and C++ computer programming in the fall. He’s hoping his fall math class has enough students enrolled so he can have all his math done before going to Mines.
“It’s just shocking that people wouldn’t be flocking to differential equations,” he said with a straight face that breaks into a smile.
He was hanging around campus to attend a 6 p.m. awards ceremony Friday, to get the Academic Achievement Award in Mathematics.
Michael said he was one of many students to take a battery of tests, called the Collegiate Assessment of Academic Proficiency, and he happened to ace the math test.
His young age hasn’t been a hindrance at Aims.
“Most of the students are here to get the job done and age has never been an issue.”
Michael doesn’t feel he missed out on much in high school, having a taste of it by playing in the band at a high school in Windsor.
“Probably what bugged me most was the social scene. You’re there to learn. Here, the focus is on getting done,” he said.
Although he spends a lot of his time studying, Michael said he enjoys spending time with his family, with a few friends or at the airport, where he’s also learning to fly. His dad, Mark Brandt, is a pilot. He also likes hiking, fishing and working on old cars. His 1970 Plymouth Barracuda is in pieces right now.
If he hadn’t been homeschooled, Julie Brandt, Michael’s mother, said he never could’ve accomplished all that he has. He wouldn’t have had the motivation and gotten the education, and he probably would’ve been distracted in public school.
Julie said she originally felt unprepared and apprehensive about taking on the task of homeschooling even though she had a business degree from Colorado State University.
“After a week, I thought, ‘It’s only kindergarten,’ and the support groups are so helpful.”
Because homeschooled kids are required to take the Iowa Basic Skills test every two years, Julie said she was never really concerned because he always scored so high on a national level. She said his success is due to the fact he’s a voracious reader so if Michael didn’t get a lesson from her, he got it on his own.
“From early on, they instilled a desire to learn,” Michael said. “They made learning fun, not out of textbooks.”
Michael’s been written about before but he said he didn’t want to get press at first. His parents persuaded him, though, that it would show other people that they can do it, too.
“It’s not that I’m smarter than everyone else,” Michael said. “The difference is that it comes down to, do you want to make it?”
For now, he doesn’t know what classes he’ll take at Mines or anything about his future roommate situation.
“I’d prefer to get a grad student — someone who’s been through it all, who can advise me about the professors, classes, workload,” he said.
However, his mother is glad he’s not leaving until spring when he’s 18. She knows it’ll be hard on him, too, because she said homeschooling’s been a wonderful family experience.
“He’s just such a great kid and loves to be with us,” she said. “It’s just a lifestyle. Your peers just aren’t as important as your family and learning. ... I know he’s not looking forward to leaving his dad. That’s his best friend.”