Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


‘Pressures to continue’: FAU High holds 5-year 100% graduation rate

A highly competitive school due to its early college program, FAU High attracts students who are dedicated to academics to maintain their 100% graduation rate – though the feat does not come without stress.
Madison Denizard
A.D. Henderson University School FAU High School

In May, FAU Interim President Stacy Volnick posted an announcement on X, formerly known as Twitter, congratulating the FAU High School class of 2023 for being the fifth class in a row to graduate with a 100% graduation rate. Established in 2004, FAU High School followed the success of the A.D. Henderson School, FAU’s K-8 school. 

FAU High School does not require a tuition payment, however, there is an activity fee for families which can range between $350 and $600 depending on the student’s grade. 

Rigorous academics

FAU High teachers and staff determine students’ strengths and weaknesses in ninth grade. This evaluation determines which students need the most help and how they can thrive at FAU High. 

We place heavy importance on letting families and students know that we are an option for anyone willing to apply,” said Alvaro Frydman, director of Creative Design and Communication at FAU High School. “We certainly have students who realize such an advanced program isn’t for them, and we steadily backfill our upper grades with students from other local high schools. Of course, students who join us in 10th or 11th grade receive the same level of counseling and advising as any student at FAU High.”

FAU High has a very rigorous application process, alumni Hope Dean said. According to FAU High’s admission website, the application consists of a student questionnaire, resume and a personal statement, amongst other details.

“When I applied, I was told that about a thousand students had applied, but only one hundred and fifty were admitted. It’s an early college program, so the students that come in are very dedicated to academics, which I think is the main reason the school is able to maintain that rate,” said Dean.

For many students, ninth grade is the pivotal year where they decide whether FAU High is the place for them. When Dean was admitted, an estimated ten students dropped out the first year due to the level of work and expectations from their instructors. This trend suggests that the school might exclude first-year dropouts from their graduation rate calculations. 

“FAU High School’s academic program challenges students to apply classroom knowledge and skills learned in the classroom to real-life situations. The rigor of our ninth-grade year and the continued rigor of undergraduate courses at Florida Atlantic set our high school students up for future success in an incredibly unique way,” said Frydman. 

Mental health

Quite a few FAU High students expressed the pressures of being a full-time college student while in high school. The hypercompetitive environment, paired with feeling out of place in classrooms with older students, can take a toll on students’ mental health.

Dean believes the transition of becoming a full-time college student in tenth grade significantly affects the student’s college interactions, as they find themselves among much older peers.  

“A fairly large number of my friends and I struggled a lot with mental health and stress, which I think could be attributed to going to college early. I tell people that I started college at sixteen because I did. I was a full-time college student. Mental health was a large issue, but it didn’t stop us from graduating because that is just the type of students FAU High attracts,” said Dean.      

The stress that students experience is heavily influenced by the expectation to pursue advanced education. While several students choose to continue their education at Florida Atlantic University, others opt for prestigious institutions like Harvard University, indicating a wide range of educational paths and associated pressures. 

“It’s only my first semester, but I can see why students may struggle due to the workload because it is a very fast-paced program. There are pressures to continue that aren’t outwardly said but you can definitely feel them,” said FAU High sophomore Saanvi Gandla. 

In hypercompetitive school environments, there are often a lot of mental health obstacles that students face, including symptoms of burnout, depressed moods and low self-esteem.

Alexis Franklin, counseling psychology doctoral candidate at the University of Miami, said, “In these environments, students often feel alone and isolated. Holding a space where students can come and be in community with one another and share their concerns may relieve some of that pressure.”

Franklin also believes that there should be structural modifications in order for things to change. 

“While we can help students at an individual level, this does not fix the problem,” she said. “The change has to happen at a system level. When school administration and faculty prioritize student wellbeing over their performance, students can thrive.” 

Faculty and staff are tasked with observing these pitfalls and addressing them in order to make the school a safe place for students to thrive. The school offers resources for students to use if they are struggling, including peer mentoring, tutoring and counseling

“Our counseling and advising departments continue to help students while dual-enrolling at Florida Atlantic to ensure they are still on track to graduate based on the Florida Department of Education’s standard high school diploma requirements,” said Frydman. 

Madison Denizard is a contributing writer for the University Press. For more information on this article or others, you can reach Madison at [email protected] 

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