Created By: zizolozizMarch 23, 2013 Last Edited By: zizolozizMay 16, 2013
Troped

Grade Skipper

A significantly younger character in a school where most students are the same age.

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Trope
In most school systems around the world, kids are grouped together by age from pre-school to graduation. However, there are some children (usually the Child Prodigy or Teen Genius) that, for various reasons, have skipped entire years of material. As a result, some characters will be a child in high school classes, or a teenager at a university. This is convenient for putting a Kid Appeal Character into the main cast of a work set in school.

While missing a single year might often just emphasize intelligence, widening the gap often causes social differences or difficulties for the characters. Often, the Grade Skipper is one of the most awkward characters on the show when he shows up, especially if he's the protagonist. Some of them wander into Cloud Cuckoolander territory; most are also the Innocent Prodigy. If they're not into their early teens yet, expect them to be the Tagalong Kid that doesn't understand romance or dirty jokes.

Sometimes, one of the more intelligent characters might be skipped ahead as a one-episode plot. Generally, if this happens, either the skipped character will feel isolated enough to rejoin the main cast, or some improbable turn of events will completely undo the process.

If parental meddling was the reason for their skipping, then it's likely that these characters go to a private school or an Elaborate University High. It's common for these characters to continue on to Ivy League schools or top colleges, but it's also fairly common for them to be rejected.

This can also take place in non-academic environments, as long as a young character is placed into a group of traditionally older people due to skill.

Though it may seem unusual, this is often Truth In Television, as this is a fairly common practice in some parts of the world. Fiction usually takes it to extremes, though: children skipped more than once or twice are extremely rare; and most of them will not be accepted instantly to a top college, even if they were skipped more than twice, because of the somewhat-arbitrary standards of admission to American universities.

Subtrope of Improbable Age. Contrast Held Back In School.

Note: Some high schools also allow students to take college classes part-time in both real life and fiction; that isn't this trope. If a student got into higher-level classes with normal school policies, then they're just smart.

Examples:

Anime And Manga
  • Azumanga Daioh. Chiyo Mihama is a Child Prodigy who skipped ahead 5 grades to 10th grade, the first year of high school in Japan.
  • In Rosario To Vampire we have Yukari. She's 11 and skipped several grades. Despite this, she is obsessed with having a threesome with Moka and Tskune.
  • A non-academic example: Limone from Simoun is the youngest member of Chor Tempest (a squadron of teenage priestesses-turned-fighter pilots) by the virtue of having completed her flight training ahead of everyone else in her class.
  • Extra exaggerated in Mahou Sensei Negim] where the TEACHER is a ten year old teaching fourteen year olds.

Film
  • Subverted in Problem Child 2; Junior is skipped ahead to the sixth grade so that Principal Peabody will be rid of him in a year instead of three years.
  • In the Gary Coleman Made For TV Movie The Kid With The 200 IQ Coleman plays a 12-year-old who goes to college studying astronomy and has a hard time fitting in.
  • In Almost Famous, William's mom lied about his age - not just to the school but to him - to get him ahead in school.

Literature
  • This happens in the epilogue of Matilda: Matilda's Psychic Powers disappear once she gets put in an advanced class, and are explained as a reaction of her brain having very little to work with.
  • Ponyboy from The Outsiders is 14, but he skipped a grade so he's already in high school.
  • Arby the Black And Nerdy kid from Michael Crichton's The Lost World is supposed to be in 5th grade but was bumped up to 7th.

Live Action TV
  • The Big Bang Theory:
    • In the episode "The Jerusalem Duality", a 15-year-old physicist who defected from North Korea joins the research staff at the university, and turns out to be smarter than Sheldon in the field.
    • It's been mentioned numerous times on the show that Sheldon was also much younger than traditional age when he went to high school and college.
  • In Eureka this is apparently pretty commonplace seeing as it's a town full of geniuses. More than one of Zoe's high school classmates appear to be younger than 12.
  • Maya Matlin in Degrassi is a 13-year-old high school freshman when first introduced, implying that she's skipped a grade.
  • Doogie Howser MD attained his medical license at age 14, having breezed through Princeton University at age 10.
  • Charlie and his brother Don on Numb3rs graduated high school on the same day. Don is five years older than Child Prodigy Charlie.

Music
  • Weird Al Yankovic graduated from high school at age 16; he was the class valedictorian.

Video Games
  • Out of The Clue Finders, it's stated in Leslie's bio that she's in the 6th grade, but is only 10 because she skipped a grade. Out of the other Cluefinders, Owen is 11, Joni and Santiago are both 12 and in the 7th grade. None of the games show the characters in school, so it's really only a minor detail.

Web Original
  • In the prequel comic to Doctor Horribles Sing Along Blog, we find out that Dr. Horrible was in sixth grade when he was eight, implying a skip of 2-3 grades. He ends up being picked on by a more normally-aged bully for both being smart and for still playing with action figures.

Western Animation
  • In Hey Arnold, Phoebe moves up to a higher grade for an episode, but the older students are kind of jerks, and she eventually realizes she'd rather go back to the 4th grade with her friends. And she does.
  • The Simpsons: Lisa Simpson. She's smart for her age, certainly, but only brilliant by comparison with Springfield's stupid children and horrible school system. When she gets the opportunity to study at Waverly Hills, an elementary school with actual standards and quality, Lisa finds that she's only a B student, rather than the straight As she got at Springfield Elementary, which traumatizes her. In another episode, she gets to skip to the third grade early, but finds it difficult (made more embarrassing for her because Bart was demoted a grade and found it easy):
    Principal Skinner: Lisa, you have a choice: you may continue to be challenged in third grade or return to second grade and be merely a big fish in a small pond.
Community Feedback Replies: 34
  • March 23, 2013
    Arivne
    Anime and Manga
  • March 24, 2013
    WeAreAllKosh
    Live-Action TV

    On The Big Bang Theory episode "The Jerusalem Duality", a 15-year-old physicist who defected from North Korea joins the research staff at the university, and turns out to be smarter than Sheldon in the field.
    • It's been mentioned numerous times on the show that Sheldon was also much younger than traditional age when he went to high school and college.
  • March 24, 2013
    xanderiskander
    In Hey Arnold Phoebe moves up to a higher grade for an episode, but the older students are kind of jerks, and she eventually realizes she'd rather go back to the 4th grade with her friends. And she does.
  • March 24, 2013
    Chabal2
    • Inverted with Lisa Simpson: she once got moved up into a higher grade, but it then turned out she's a Normal Fish In A Tiny Pond.
    • This happens in the epilogue of Matilda (the book): Matilda's Psychic Powers disappear once she gets put in an advanced class, and are explained as a reaction of her brain having very little to work with.
  • March 24, 2013
    Astaroth
  • March 24, 2013
    UltramarineAlizarin
    The example in The Simpsons might be better labeled a deconstruction, since it explores Lisa's difficulty in adjusting to an advanced curriculum. An inversion would be Held Back In School or going back a grade -- which also happened on The Simpsons. Here's the example from Normal Fish In A Tiny Pond for your consideration:

    • Lisa Simpson. She's smart for her age, certainly, but only brilliant by comparison with Springfield's stupid children and horrible school system. When she gets the opportunity to study at Waverly Hills, an elementary school with actual standards and quality, Lisa finds that she's only a B student, rather than the straight As she got at Springfield Elementary, which traumatizes her. In another episode, she gets to skip to the third grade early, but finds it difficult (made more embarrassing for her because Bart was demoted a grade and found it easy):
      Principal Skinner: Lisa, you have a choice: you may continue to be challenged in third grade or return to second grade and be merely a big fish in a small pond.
  • March 25, 2013
    Arivne

  • March 27, 2013
    Paradisesnake
    Did some formatting.
  • March 27, 2013
    MaxWest
    In Problem Child 2, Junior is skipped ahead to the sixth grade so that Principal Peabody will be rid of him in a year instead of three years.

    Since this is done to get rid of a troublemaker, should this count as a subversion or a "Played With"?
  • March 27, 2013
    zarpaulus
    Live Action TV
    • In Eureka this is apparently pretty commonplace seeing as it's a town full of geniuses. More than one of Zoe's high school classmates appear to be younger than 12.
  • March 27, 2013
    ArkadyDarell
    Web Original
    • In the prequel comic to Doctor Horribles Sing Along Blog, we find out that Dr. Horrible was in sixth grade when he was eight, implying a skip of 2-3 grades. He ends up being picked on by a more normally-aged bully for both being smart and for still playing with action figures.
  • March 28, 2013
    Koveras
    Would this count?

    • Limone from Simoun is the youngest member of Chor Tempest (a squadron of teenage priestesses-turned-fighter pilots) by the virtue of having completed her flight training ahead of everyone else in her class.
  • March 28, 2013
    JohnDiFool
    Janice in Head Of The Class.
  • April 11, 2013
    zizoloziz
    Should the (rather large) amount of notable Real Life examples be added in?
  • April 11, 2013
    Koveras
    ^ If it has the potential to outweigh the other sections, it probably shouldn't. This wiki is about fiction, after all...
  • April 11, 2013
    randomsurfer
    In the Gary Coleman Made For TV Movie The Kid with the 200 IQ Coleman plays a 12-year-old who goes to college studying astronomy and has a hard time fitting in.
  • April 12, 2013
    DennisDunjinman
    Out of the Cluefinders, it's stated in Leslie's bio that she's in the 6th grade, but is only 10 because she skipped a grade. Out of the other Cluefinders, Owen is 11, Joni and Santiago are both 12 and in the 7th grade. None of the games show the characters in school, so it's really only a minor detail.
  • April 12, 2013
    DouglasFir
    • Ponyboy from The Outsiders is 14, but he skipped a grade so he's already in high school.
  • April 13, 2013
    nlpnt
    • Maya Matlin in Degrassi is a 13-year-old high school freshman when first introduced, implying that she's skipped a grade.

    • In Almost Famous, William's mom lied about his age - not just to the school but to him - to get him ahead in school.
  • April 15, 2013
    zizoloziz
    I don't know if we should accept Real Life examples or not. Some tropes already have incredibly large amounts of RL examples; at this point, though, it would far outweigh the fictional examples listed. Somehow, Weird Al got on here already, though.
  • April 15, 2013
    SharleeD
  • April 19, 2013
    littlemissmuffet
    • Janice Lazarotto in Head Of The Class, who was also the first one of the class to graduate. She went to Harvard.
  • April 21, 2013
    randomsurfer
    ^Technically she wasn't "the first one to graduate," since she went to Harvard without graduating. She returned for the Grand Finale and graduated high school with the rest of the class.
  • April 26, 2013
    zarpaulus
    • In The Iron Giant Hogarth says he moved up a grade during the scene where Dean gives him expresso and he's talking rapidly. There's also a deleted scene where he's the only one in class who can answer a question and his teacher comments that he could be skipping another grade.
  • April 27, 2013
    Eddy1215
    I believe this is the main theme of Smart Guy.

    Also, in the fourth season of Kim Possible, Kim's brothers were skipped ahead to the grade of Freshmen.
  • April 27, 2013
    Paradisesnake
    Did some formatting.
  • April 28, 2013
    Marz1200
    Live Action TV
    • Charlie and his brother Don on Numb3rs graduated high school on the same day. Don is five years older than Child Prodigy Charlie.
  • May 6, 2013
    Surenity
    • Arby the Black And Nerdy kid from Michael Chrichton's The Lost World is supposed to be in 5th grade but was bumped up to 7th.
  • May 6, 2013
    oneuglybunny
    Live Action TV
    • Doogie Howser MD attained his medical license at age 14, having breezed through Princeton University at age 10.
  • May 12, 2013
    Koveras
  • May 12, 2013
    Olaf_Merchant
    Looks good. Hatted.
  • May 14, 2013
    Marz1200
  • May 16, 2013
    XFllo
    We seem to have it already: Grade Skipper. The history is not showing up. I must read the page and this draft to see what's better. EDIT: It looks these are very much the same, but it was not launched, meaning that this discussion is not archived.
  • May 16, 2013
    Koveras
    ^ Well, it just has to be launched to the existing title and this discussion will be attached automatically AFAIK.

Three days must pass before this YKTTW is Launchworthy or Discardable