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Grade Skipper
A significantly younger character in a school where most students are the same age.
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(permanent link) added: 2013-03-23 22:31:17 sponsor: zizoloziz (last reply: 2013-05-16 09:31:00)

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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 + 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, M.D. 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

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.
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