Grade Skipper

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.

Just like Held Back In School, plots involving ridiculous degrees of grade skipping are common. Children under five in high school or college or teenagers with doctorates are some of the most frequent applications of the trope.

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 two grades ahead 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.


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 Negima! where the teacher is a ten year old teaching fourteen year olds.
  • Paniponi Dash is exactly the same.
  • Multiple characters in Hayate the Combat Butler.
  • Clemont from Pokémon is roughly the same age as Ash yet was shown to have been a part of an electric-type based university where all the other students were adults. He was portrayed as even younger in the flashbacks.

  • 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.
  • The Iron Giant: During a caffeine-fueled rant, Hogarth complains about being bullied because he skipped a grade and the other kids think he's smarter than they are.
  • In Revenge of the Nerds, one of the protagonists is a 10-year-old Child Prodigy who got to skip the remainder of grade school, middle school, and high school to go right to college and pursue an engineering degree.
  • Must have happened to Mitch in Real Genius, since he's in college at 15 years old (when most US students are at about grade 9 or 10, and don't usually start college until they're 18, after completing grade 12).

  • 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.
  • Fireheart and Graystripe of Warrior Cats, in a manner of speaking. Apprentices usually become warriors in the order they were apprenticed, and an apprenticeship is stated to normally last 6 moons. Fireheart and Graystripe were made warriors before the older Dustpelt and Sandstorm, and if you carefully keep track of every mention of time passing in the book, they were only apprentices for a little over two moons.

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.
  • Liberty on Degrassi supposedly skipped a grade, but this was seemingly retconned out in later seasons.
    • Maya Matlin 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.
  • Mr. Young: By the time Adam Young was old enough to be a High School student, he was a teacher.
  • Just Legal features a lawyer who, because of grade-skipping, couldn't get a job in any big firm because they believed he wouldn't be taken seriously in court.
  • The Nanny: When Niles learned Valerie's age, Fran tried to prevent him from using this to figure out hers by claiming she had skipped a few grades. When it didn't work, Fran said Valerie was Held Back In School. That Niles could believe.
  • Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide had Cookie being considered to skip ahead to high school. However, he wanted to go to 8th grade alongside his friends, so he started purposely failing his classes so he wouldn't have to skip.


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.

Visual Novels
  • It's not said what grades she skipped, but Makise Kurisu from Steins;Gate has a Master's degree at age 18.

Web Original
  • In the prequel comic to Dr. Horrible's 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.
  • In Precocious, Bud's older sister Casey likes to rub in his face that she skipped a grade, and claims that because his (elite) school has a combined fourth and fifth grade class it's like he was held back.

Western Animation
  • Recess had an episode where Gretchen, who is a Kid Genius, was set to be evaluated to skip the entire school system process and go right into college. (Given the kinds of ingenius things she'd done over the course of the series, it isn't implausible in context.) Reality Ensues as the thought of leaving the only friends she's ever had and everything she's ever known behind reduces her to a mixture of panic and defeated depression, remembering how lonely she used to be due to her intelligence. TJ comes up with one of his usual schemes to keep this from happening.
  • 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.
  • Child Prodigy Anais from The Amazing World of Gumball is four years old and so smart she's is in the same grade as her 12-year-old brother.
  • The Fairly OddParents: A.J. got into college in Fairy Idol and said he'd be back in two weeks.
  • Dexter's Laboratory: Dexter once went to college. At first, all other students only wanted to party and he refused to join, despite their warnings about getting it out of the system. By the time Dexter proved them right, they were the ones wanting to study. His attempt to get a party got him expelled.
  • Angela Anaconda: Nanette was temporarily moved up as a result of Mrs. Brinks favoring her while grading.
  • Kim Possible: Wade was ten years old when he got a college degree. Kim's younger brothers later entered the trope.
  • Skeeter from Doug was determined intelligent enough in one episode to be taken out of school and put in college. However, he ended up returning to Bluffington Elementary of his own volition because he disagreed with the other college students smoking.
  • The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius had Jimmy choosing to go straight to college after feeling unchallenged by his school's curriculum. He ends up becoming more hated by his new classmates than he was by his old ones.
  • South Park's Ike Broflovski entered kindergarten early, he's only supposed to be about three years old when the older boys move to fourth grade.
  • While the exact grade level he's in is never stated, Rafael from Transformers Prime goes to the Jasper High School with his friends Jack and Miko... while being only 12 (and a quarter) years old.
  • In the first season of Young Justice, Dick Grayson is thirteen and in ninth grade, meaning he presumably skipped ahead at some point.