Courtesy of Harrey Shuler

Jeremy Shuler '20 is the youngest student to attend Cornell.

March 8, 2019

3 Years Later, Cornell’s Youngest Student ‘Learned to Behave,’ But Life Remains the Same

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When Jeremy Shuler ’20 started college three years ago, he was the youngest student to ever attend Cornell at the age of 12. Now 15, Jeremy has adjusted to college life, enjoying Trillium’s soup and Asian food and taking applied engineering physics classes.

Jeremy’s matriculation into Cornell marked a stark transition from his previous homeschool education. This adjustment to college life was “smooth” but not free from “several mistakes,” said Harrey Shuler, Jeremy’s mother, in an interview with The Sun at Clark Atrium in Physical Sciences Building.

Harrey attributes these “mistakes” to Jeremy not having seen the inside of a regular classroom since his homeschool days. Many professors just “didn’t know what to do with him,” she told The Sun.

Despite his young age, Jeremy still adjusted well to university life. He learned “how to behave” after only his first semester at Cornell, his mother said.

“In classes he didn’t realize and didn’t know that he needs to actually wait and raise his hands to answer questions,” Harrey added. “He just answered all the questions without considering any other students.”

Jeremy’s professors, who are used to working with adult students, were then confronted with the challenge of teaching a 12-year-old.

“When [older] students make mistakes, professors usually wait for the students to realize that what they did was wrong, but for him, he needs to be told,” Harrey told The Sun. “Some professors just waited for him to figure it out, which never came.”

Being featured in the news as the youngest undergraduate at Cornell helped Jeremy adjust when he first came to college. The attention and recognition from the community made Jeremy feel welcomed and comfortable — many people even asked to take selfies with Jeremy during his first semester, Harrey said.

“He’s a great physicist and loves deriving the most complicated things he can think to do,” said Emily Waite ’20, also an AEP student, who said she and Jeremy has been friends since freshman year. “He can always find a mistake a professor makes but isn’t always the best at articulating it, so sometimes I help translate to the professor what Jeremy is saying.”

Three years after he entered Cornell, Jeremy said that he has matured significantly throughout his time at college, but beyond that, his life hasn’t changed a lot.

The Shuler family, originally from Texas, moved to downtown Ithaca when Jeremy decided to enroll in Cornell. This relocation was also one of Cornell’s conditions to admit him. Jeremy would go back home every day after classes and his mother would check on his homework.

“Just being in college doesn’t mean he is as mature as college students,” Harrey said.

The decision to have Jeremy attend Cornell — rather than continuing homeschooling — stems from the intellectual pursuits that the university offers him, according to his mother. Jeremy has a tendency to “get really obsessed with things,” she said.

“[Not going to college] really would not have been good for me,” Jeremy said.

Jeremy and his mother think going to Cornell was a wise decision, given the family’s deep Cornell roots. Jeremy’s father, Andy Shuler ’97, attended Cornell, and Jeremy’s grandfather is a retired Cornell professor. But other than that, the family is happy with this decision as “people are good to him.”

After graduation, Jeremy Shuler hopes to pursue a Ph.D. in theoretical physics and make the move to academia — Princeton is his top choice for graduate school. Just as their decision to go to Cornell, the Shulers don’t believe age will be a barrier.

“When he applied to college, he was unknown. He finished high school classes, and the score shows that, but he has never been in the public school setting and colleges are nervous about that,” Harrey said. “But I think at Cornell, he is really doing well … and Cornell is a pretty hard school, so hopefully, graduate schools will see that.”

“He is among the top students here,” Harrey said. “He is much better than many people.”