AIKEN - Nick
Green knew the news hounds would be knocking and was more than
happy to let them in.
the open invitation to intrude on his last days as University
of South Carolina Aiken's youngest-ever college student came
Aiken student Nick Green studies in his campus dorm
room. The 15-year-old senior will graduate Thursday with
a B-plus average.
``Excuse the apartment - it's a little messy. I'll fit you
in around 10. I have an exam Friday afternoon, but that should
still give me time to study.''
Nick will graduate Thursday night with a B-plus average, a
hair shy of honors distinction. But he still will get to say a
few words at commencement. That's great by almost everybody's
standards - except his own. He wishes he'd done a little
But cut the boy some slack. He's only 15.
That's right. Nick will have a history degree from the
local university before he gets his driver's license. His
parents have promised him a set of wheels for his 16th
By then, he'll be an old hand at this college thing, even
if he's still unsteady behind the driver's seat.
Nick could be the youngest-ever graduate from any South
Carolina college or university. And he expects to complete the
master's program at the University of South Carolina seven
months shy of 18, when most students his age are saying
goodbye to high school. By that time, Nick will be applying
for a steady paying job, maybe as a museum curator.
Last summer, he interned at the Atlanta History Center,
where he cataloged military collections and researched relics.
And he liked it.
``I didn't have to get anybody's coffee, so that was a
plus,'' Nick said.
During graduate school, he'll work in a museum or one of
the libraries for a small stipend and cheaper tuition, he
Or he says he might just go ahead and get his law degree,
as if it were as easy as heating up the frozen pot pies he
eats several nights a week. It probably is for Nick, who went
as far as fifth grade in the California school system before
his parents put him in college.
The admissions director at Taft Community College accepted
Nick on a trial basis. His elementary teachers knew they had
lost his attention years earlier. So did the entire state. As
an apology, California picked up Nick's college tab -
something South Carolina never offered to do after he
transferred to USC Aiken when his mother's work with
Westinghouse brought the family here. He was 12 years old with
31 credit hours on his college transcript at the time.
Nick never got a LIFE scholarship, which are meant to help
good students go to college, because he isn't a high school
graduate. He never went to high school. And he couldn't become
eligible for financial aid by taking an equivalency test until
he turned 16. Now there's no need to.
His dorm, until recently shared with three others, is the
epitome of a bachelor pad. A wraparound couch and a broken-in
chair are all the furniture he and another roommate have. Oh,
there is a TV just large enough to see the animated characters
in the Playstation games. Three-day-old dirty dishes are piled
in the sink, and the countertops have tuna stains that even
the toughest cleanser couldn't lift.
But Nick doesn't seem to notice. He ``hangs out'' at other
people's apartments when he's not studying. On Sundays, his
grandmother picks him up. At her house, he eats home cooking
and washes his clothes.
``The cafeteria food gets old, and I'm not much of a chef.
Microwave pot pies are about the best I can do.''
Freshman Seth Layden laughs about it now, but he remembers
when someone from the admissions office called to say that the
men of 10D would be getting an extra body - a 15-year-old boy.
``I thought, `Oh great. We'll have to take him everywhere,
buy him ice cream cones and let him romp around the playground
at McDonald's,''' he said. ``But he's not unsociable like
those geniuses who carry around 16 pens and a pocket protector
and who can't function socially.''
That's certainly not Nick. He's a senator on student
government, plays clarinet in the pep band, and is a member of
the Pacer Union Board and Gamma Beta Phi honors fraternity.
By now, he fits in so well that most people don't remember
that technically he should be a freshman in high school. The
only time his age really comes up is when the band follows the
basketball team out of town. Nick needs a permission slip to
He definitely likes living at Pacer Downs. Being able to
lumber out of his single bed - actually made up the day of his
interview - and heading straight to class is the best part, he
says. But the unspoken reason is that his grandmother no
longer has to drop him off.
``He likes this on-your-own kind of thing,'' said his dad,
Glenn. ``But he still calls me on Friday nights to say, `Dad,
I really want to come home this weekend.'''
Kirkland at (803) 279-6895.