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Sam Matey: The 15-Year-Old College Freshman

Sam Matey is not your average 15-year-old high school student. Between rock climbing with his local high school club and enjoying the outdoors like your average teenager in Maine, Sam is also completing his freshman year of college with Arizona State University (ASU) and edX through the Global Freshman Academy (GFA).

Sam is no stranger to online courses. He has been homeschooled for most of his life and the edX platform caught his eye. “I was looking on the edX site for classes for the upcoming school year,” he says. “That is where I read about GFA. It seemed really awesome with no downside, so I brought it up to my parents and enrolled in three courses.”

Sam’s homeschooled, which means his course schedule is pretty flexible. For him, GFA was the perfect opportunity to start pursuing his bachelor’s degree early. He’s able to take courses he’s interested in and decide later whether purchasing credit works for him.

“I’m surprised more people aren’t doing this. I don’t know why this isn’t the biggest news since the iPhone,” Sam says. “Why spend $15,000 on college when you can try it out online and not have to pay unless you pass the course?” Sam’s father, Chris, shares his son’s point of view and has tried to spread the news to other parents.

“Honestly, everyone thinks it’s too good to be true,” Chris laughs. “I think GFA is amazing. You can pause lectures to take notes and receive personalized help from professors. We couldn’t do that back when I was in school.”

Sam and Chris were so inspired by this experience that Chris even bought Sam a telescope so he could further pursue his interest in astronomy, which was piqued by his GFA course Introduction to Solar Systems Astronomy. In fact, Sam has decided that he would like to go on to earn his bachelor’s degree in sustainability from ASU because of the strong impact the GFA sustainability course, Technological, Social and Sustainable Systems, had on him. Additionally, he would like to pursue another degree in wildlife and biology.

Sam wants to continue his education with ASU. He feels like he is part of the ASU community, even though he is taking the courses hundreds of miles away in Maine. “I’m getting a freshman year experience that’s so much better and less expensive than what my peers are getting,” Sam says. “I really am an ASU freshman.”

Sam has completed five GFA courses to date and is currently enrolled in two more. “The experience was spectacular,” Sam says. “I like this style of learning and will continue to take every course available. I just have to tell my dad when the sign-ups are coming.” With Sam’s determination, he will be a sophomore in college by the time he gets his driver’s license.