In fifth grade, Haley Taylor Schlitz was falling a bit behind in school and distracted.
Her parents knew she was smart enough to do well and wanted to get her tested for the gifted and talented program, but couldn’t at her school. They decided to get her independently tested, and decided home school would be a better option so she could go at her own pace. She graduated from high school at 13.
Now, at 16, she’s preparing to graduate from Texas Woman’s University with a degree in interdisciplinary studies and is heading to Southern Methodist University’s Dedman School of Law in Dallas. With a law degree, Schlitz said she hopes to help other young people realize different paths to higher education and maybe even start a school.
“I know what the opportunities look like because I was able to take advantage of them. ... I really want to help people realize that,” she said. “[I wondered] how can I get super involved in this? And one of the ways I can get the most involved is having a JD [Juris Doctor degree].”
SMU is one of nine law schools in the area that accepted Schlitz, who based her decision on proximity to her family’s home in Keller and financial aid and scholarships. She also wanted the campus to feel welcoming with faculty who wouldn’t talk down to her for her age — the same things that attracted her to TWU.
Wednesday morning, Schlitz got to tout her accomplishments on ABC’s Good Morning America, and even was presented with $2,500 worth of school supplies from 3M. She was initially supposed to do a live interview from a television studio in Dallas, but on Tuesday, network officials asked if she would fly to New York.
“One of the most memorable parts was being there and in the studio with the hosts,” she said. “I’ve done a lot of public speaking, but I was still nervous.”
The appearance was another opportunity for Schlitz to share her nontraditional journey to college, which her siblings are following, too. Her little brother is 13 and just finished his freshman year of college, and her 11-year-old sister is in high school.
“For me, this could have easily not happened — if my parents hadn’t taken the initiative to go get me privately tested and just been like, ‘Well, keep her in public school,’ I wouldn’t be here,” she said. “And that would be a huge shame because I love where I am.”