U student plans to graduate at 19

Omar Abdelfattah began attending classes at the University at age 16.

Vincent Staupe

Omar Abdelfattah is a University junior, yet he’s not old enough to vote.

The 17-year-old, who is studying marketing and entrepreneurial studies at the Carlson School of Management, plans on graduating at age 19.

When Abdelfattah first arrived at the University, his classmates were surprised by his age, he said.

“The look on people’s faces when I said I was 16 was pretty funny,” he said. “They thought I was kidding.”

Abdelfattah said the University is one of the few that admitted him at an early age.

“It all came down to the University of Iowa or here,” he said. Abdelfattah said he chose the University because the Carlson School is ranked higher than the University of Iowa’s business school.

“I also have an older brother studying here,” he said.

Although he was born in the United States, Abdelfattah spent the majority of his childhood in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, where he attended a very difficult school: the International School of Choueifat, he said.

Although he began school a year earlier than most, Abdelfattah said the school allowed students to proceed with courses at their own pace. This eventually allowed him to graduate high school early and plan for college, a move he said wasn’t entirely endorsed by the staff at the school.

“The advisers wanted to keep me in school; they said I was going to really mess up and I wouldn’t cope well to college life,” Abdelfattah said.

Despite his parents’ initial worries, Abdelfattah began classes in the fall of 2005.

“It went fine; the classes weren’t too hard,” he said of his first semester at the University. “Most of the classes that semester I had already taken in high school, so they weren’t too hard,” he said.

Farbod Ebrahimi, an electrical and computer engineering sophomore, attended high school with Abdelfattah in the United Arab Emirates and was his roommate last year. He said Abdelfattah’s age never was a problem.

“It really didn’t make a difference,” Ebrahimi said.

Linda Millington, assistant program director for the Carlson School undergraduate program, said enrolling a 16-year-old first-year student is most likely an exception, particularly at the Carlson School.

“The average incoming freshman is of the traditional age, 18 or 19 years old,” Millington said.

Abdelfattah, who chose a business track in part because of the “skill and the talent of convincing people to buy your product,” said he plans to look for a career in the Twin Cities area upon graduation.

In addition, Abdelfattah said students considering attending college earlier than usual should go for it.

“If they feel pretty confident about taking college classes, they should do it,” he said.