What were you doing when you were 12?
Probably running around with your friends, eating after-school snacks and learning how to navigate the world. Attending school, certainly -- but not college. College is for older kids, right?
Wrong, if your name happens to be Caleb Anderson.
Caleb, who probably enjoys after-school snacks as much as the next boy, is a little different.
The 12-year-old -- who was reading as a baby and passed the first grade when he was 3, his mom told NPR -- is now a college sophomore at Chattahoochee Technical College, in Georgia.
He’s studying to become an aerospace engineer. He’s turned quite a few heads over the past year or so, which you can see if you visit his family’s Instagram page.
Earlier this month, the Marietta, Ga. boy wrote a piece for Newsweek, talking about what it’s been like to grow up as a gifted person.
“At (the age of) 1, I knew what I wanted, I persevered and worked really hard. I read the preamble to the U.S. Constitution at 2 years old, and before I was 2, I was also doing math, including fractions. At 15 months old, I knew all of the planets and all the countries on the map.”
His parents even started an elementary school for gifted children like their son.
But when the school had to close and Caleb was forced to transfer, he said he wasn’t being challenged and the other students looked down on him. So he decided to skip ahead -- by a lot. Caleb tested into college, and was able to work toward his high school degree and a college degree at the same time.
Things got better once he was around older students, Caleb wrote in Newsweek.
“At school, I was always different, but at college, the kids are really mature and know better -- and they don’t just see me like a super smart kid, they look at me as a little brother. I really appreciate that.”
Lately, Caleb is studying macroeconomics, humanities, calculus one, and U.S. history.
He hopes to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering at 14, and then obtain his pilot’s license at the age of 17.
He wrote in Newsweek that he’d love to do his master’s at Georgia Tech, his Ph.D. at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and then go on to work at NASA or SpaceX.
They’re ambitious goals, but considering what Caleb has already accomplished, it seems the sky is the limit.
In fact, earlier this year, Steve Harvey learned of Caleb and asked who was paying for his college tuition. Harvey, upon learning that Caleb’s parents were handling it, said his organization would cover the costs, according to published reports.
“College is expensive, and not only is he paying for my bachelor’s degree, but he’s also given me a computer and is paying for all my books, too,” Caleb said. “Honestly, it’s crazy that he would do that for me and I’m really grateful. It’s been a while since I’ve seen something so kind — he’s taking this financial burden from my family.”
Caleb just so happened to include some advice in his Newsweek article, for other children. It’s quite poignant: “The number one thing I’d tell other kids is not to let anyone tell you what you can and can’t do. Of course, there are rules and laws in place that help our society, but if someone says that you’re not allowed to pioneer something, or there’s no way you’ll make a certain team, or be able to play a song you want to learn, I think that’s just a reflection of that person, not you.”