McCay plans to graduate a year early, attend college in fall


Mia Constantin

Current senior Maddie McCay finishes her butterfly race in the 2019 swim season.

After Harrisonburg High School announced in August that they would be continuing education online for at least the first semester of the 2020-2021 academic year, junior Maddie McCay made the decision to change her courses so that she was able to graduate a year early. 

COVID really [led me to the decision to graduate early]. Online school, especially at the beginning of the year, was incredibly hard for me and I can’t see myself doing this for another year,” McCay said. 

Although she will not be enduring another year of online schooling at HHS, McCay had to recognize that she would also be leaving behind many of her friends and her highschool swimming career. 

Some pros about [graduating early] are definitely moving on from highschool and starting to study things that interest me more, but the cons are just as strong,” McCay said. “I am going to miss all my friends and teammates. [I will not get a ] senior swim season and there probably will not be a prom or anything special for seniors this year.”

In order to successfully make this change, McCay worked closely with her counselor and HHS administrators to ensure she was taking the necessary steps to graduate with all of the requirements. 

I had to kick all of my electives out for this semester. I was originally in special health care classes such as sports medicine and such, but I had to switch those out for Honors government and AP stats,” McCay said. 

After applying to many schools, Virginia Tech is currently McCay’s top choice to pursue a career in the medical field. 

I am still waiting on several colleges to hear back from, but as of now Virginia Tech is my top choice,” McCay said. “My whole life I have wanted to go into healthcare. At Tech, my selected major is nanomedicine at the moment, but my aspiration is trauma surgery.”

Throughout McCay’s life, swimming has been a major focus of hers. McCay has continued her passion for swimming with hopes of swimming in college whether on a club team or varsity team.

“I have [swim] practice every morning before school. Then I go to the gym on my own and lift a few times a week. I hope to swim in college but it’s not a priority. There are many ways to swim in college, on the collegiate team, club, or just on your own,” McCay said. 

Although McCay will be attending college at a younger age than most students, she is not fearful of any difficulties that may come with this transition. 

“I do not have any fears of being a younger freshman. I’m sure there will be tons of others in the same boat as me. I am prepared for the challenge of college-level classes,” McCay said.

Throughout online school, McCay has stayed motivated by thinking about all of the opportunities she will be able to pursue in college. 

“College [has kept me motivated throughout online school]. I keep telling myself that I cannot give up now that I have come this far,” McCay said. “Honestly I’m excited about everything. Graduation ceremonies, parties, pictures and just knowing how lucky I am to have this option.”

Although she is excited for college, McCay is grateful for the memories and friendships she has created with her fellow classmates and teachers throughout her high school years. 

“My fondest memory [in high school] is both years at states for swimming. It was awesome racing with some of my oldest friends for my last two seasons,” McCay said. “ [I will miss swim team and my teachers. My last two seasons have included some of the best memories I have and I will especially miss my AP teachers.”

Even though McCay knows this is the best path for her, she also acknowledges that graduating early is not for everyone and having a plan is vital to success. 

“[My advice would be to] make sure you have a plan for after you graduate. Whether that’s college, gap year, or work force, make sure you know what you want to do. I encourage this for people having a hard time with virtual learning. It gives [me] motivation knowing there is light at the end of the tunnel,” McCay said.