Student Accepted to Master of Science Program at Age 19

Deferred matriculation to remain at Simon’s Rock for one more year

Each year, Bard Center for Environmental Policy (BCEP) at Bard College admits a couple of students who have not yet completed a bachelor’s degree to its master’s programs. For Jessica Kaller, then a sophomore at Bard College at Simon’s Rock, BCEP seemed like an exciting opportunity to keep in mind for graduate school.

“I got an email telling students about the opportunity. It was as simple as that,” says Kaller, now a junior. The email from the Win Student Resource Commons--one of a stream of similar announcements throughout the year--explained the opening in the Master of Science in Environmental Policy program at BCEP.

I just want to be hereKaller applied, thinking that if she updated the admissions office with her progress toward her bachelor’s degree, BCEP would respond with a list of courses to help prepare her for the program. Jessica expected an offer to reapply the next year. But that’s not what happened. Kaller was admitted, and at 19 she found herself with the option to go straight to graduate school.

Though excited by the possibility to accelerate her education, Kaller decided it was important to stay at Simon’s Rock for another year. “I just want to be here, slow down, and really enjoy Simon’s Rock,” Kaller explains.

Kaller deferred matriculation at BCEP for a year, essentially designing a custom 3/2 BA/MS program. After three years at Simon’s Rock, she’ll move on to BCEP, where she’ll complete both her BA and MA degrees in the next two years. To earn both degrees Kaller will have to submit her master’s thesis to committees at BCEP and Simon’s Rock.

“If all goes well, I’ll receive my bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the same time.” Kaller marvels, “I came to Simon’s Rock after my junior year of high school, so I’ll be getting my master’s when the kids I went to high school with are finishing their bachelor’s.”

The decision to stay at Simon’s Rock for an extra year might seem surprising coming from a student like Kaller, who aggressively pursues door-opening opportunities. But her delight—and surprise—at getting into graduate school came at a time when she was fully immersed in her experience at Simon’s Rock.

“Two years was just not enough time for me to explore everything Simon’s Rock has to offer,” Kaller says. “When I looked at the great situation I had here, the classes I was taking, the friends I’d made, the relationships I’d built with my professors, I knew I had to stay a little longer.”

Kaller is using the additional year to continue pursuing what she loves. In her final year at Simon’s Rock, she continues to forge ahead, organizing two tutorials (one on the BP oil spill and another focused on the reform of health care) and beginning an independent study on ecology. She also serves as a student representative to the Board of Overseers and continues to plan campus events in her role as an assistant to student activities director Valerie Fanarjian.

Kaller will spend the summer interning at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, where she’ll continue studying the BP oil spill. “I’ll be doing environmental research, and Woods Hole has collected so much data from the spill, it’ll be fascinating.”

In the fall she’ll begin pursuing her Master of Science in Environmental Policy. “It’s a great program. You learn about environmental policy from so many different angles, which is really important because I’m interested in the policy, economics, and science of it.”

The BCEP program appealed to Kaller because, like Simon’s Rock, it offers individual attention from professors and a strong sense of community among students. “The program places value on pulling people together from different backgrounds, people who are at different places in their careers,” Kaller explains, “and part of that is accepting someone like me who’s a little early.”