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 (younger) 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 often just emphasizes the student's 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 they shows up, especially if they're 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.
- 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.
- Pani Poni Dash! is exactly the same.
- Multiple characters in Hayate the Combat Butler.
- Clemont from Pokémon is roughly the same age as Ash, yet is 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.
- Power Pack: Katie Power is stated to have skipped several grades in the 2000 miniseries, which takes place a couple of years after the original series and depicts the team as teens.
- Invoked 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.
- 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 only 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).
- Mentioned offhandedly in Ginger Snaps to explain while Brigitte and Ginger are in the same grade, despite being barely fifteen and sixteen respectively; Brigitte skipped a grade ahead.
- The Babysitters Club:
- Charlotte, one of the charges of The Babysitters Club, is skipped from second to third grade in an early book. Unlike most examples, this was done as much for social reasons as for academic ones: Charlotte was bullied in her second grade class for being so much smarter than everyone else. But when she was put into a higher grade with kids who were much closer to her intellectual peers, she didn't stand out so much and had a way easier time making new friends.
- Kristy's little sister, Karen, also skipped a grade early on in the series, but it happened offscreen.
- 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. When they meet, Cherry is confused about how a kid as smart as him could be a Greaser Delinquent, which offends Ponyboy.
- Arby the Black And Nerdy kid from Michael Crichton's The Lost World (1995) 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 (making them only 7-8 moons old instead of the standard 12-13 moons).
- Cheaper by the Dozen has a chapter titled "Skipping Through School".
- In The Unicorn Club (a spin-off of Sweet Valley High), Grace Oliver has skipped eighth grade.
- In Louis Sachar’s novel Someday Angeline, eight-year-old "Angeline was put in the sixth grade. They put her there, because, well, they had to put her somewhere and they didn’t know where else to put her."
- In Cynthia Voigt’s Bad Girls series, Hadrian Klenk has skipped kindergarten and second grade.
- 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 college. Apparently he did not go to High School at all - a university in Texas took a strong interest in the boy genius and offered to take him straight away, age eleven-twelve. Sheldon himself remarks that he found the obligatory Spring Break to be somewhat tedious and was glad he got it out of the way - aged thirteen. Hen also completed his first doctorate at the age of 16.
- 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.
- In Hannah Montana, Rico got into high school by skipping a couple of grades.
- 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. He ends up with a washed-up veteran attorney simply because no one else would take either of them. For bonus points, he's called "Skip" because he skipped so many grades.
- 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. When the guidance counselor confronts him about it, he tells her the truth and she tells him all he had to do was tell her he didn't want to skip.
- The main premise of the series Smart Guy is that TJ goes from the fourth grade to the tenth grade. A lot of the show is him dealing with this.
- On Scorpion, Toby and Sylvester both skipped a few grades when they were in school. Zig-zagged with boy genius, Ralph, who has not skipped any grades yet, but is taking college-level courses at Caltech at the same time he's going to junior high.
- One episode of Lizzie McGuire had the Title Character's friend, Gordo, being skipped from middle to high school. He returns to his old school by the end of the episode due to missing his friends.
- In Power Rangers Turbo, Twelve-year-old Justin is discovered to be a child prodigy, enabling him to enter high school just as his fellow rangers graduate.
- In an episode of Chopped where all the contestants were college students, one of the competitors was a girl who was a senior at the University of Washington in Seattle, and she was only 18 years old (the age most people are when they start college). The girl explained that she skipped a couple grades and started college when she was only 15—so she must have skipped ahead by at least three or four grades, depending on when her birthday is and what age she would've been if she had never skipped any grades.
- In Legends of Tomorrow, Martin Stein reveals to Ray Palmer that he skipped 10th and 11th grade.
- The Inbetweeners has Suzie, who, as we discover after Neil picks her as his date on a charity Blind Date event, is doing her A-Levels four years early.
- The main premise of Ant Farm—"ANT" stands for "Advanced Natural Talents," and it's program in the series that allows gifted middle schoolers (aka, "Child Prodigies") to start high school at a younger-than-average age (in the case of the show's lead character, she ends up starting high school at the age of 11, which is when most kids end up starting middle school).
- In The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, the overachieving Marcy is said to have skipped both fourth and fifth grade.
- 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.
- It's not said what grades she skipped, but Makise Kurisu from Steins;Gate has a Master's degree at age 18.
- 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.
- Ruby Rose in RWBY gets to attend Beacon Academy two years early due to the fact that Professor Ozpin is impressed with Ruby's weapon skills and most likely because she has super rare super powers, but he'd never tell her that. However, she quickly becomes a panicked wreck when she goes to attend due to the fact that she feels way out of her league, being a fifteen year old girl attending a school usually geared for young adults. It's later mentioned that there's a combat test for entering the academy; while most people train for years to be ready, you're allowed to take the test without any prior schooling. Ruby clearly comes in under that loophole, as does Blake (though Blake waited until she was the appropriate age).
- Recess had an episode where Gretchen, who is a Child Prodigy, 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:
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.Lisa: Big fish! Big fish!
- Lisa Simpson. She's certainly very smart for her age, 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).
- "Lisa's Rival": The titular character is a girl who's a year younger than Lisa and is in the same class as her because of grade-skipping.
- "Future-Drama": It seems Lisa will recover from the trauma of being in the same year as Bart. She'll graduate two years earlier, making her graduate the same year Bart will.
- Anais from The Amazing World of Gumball is only four, but is so intelligent that she's already in the eighth grade, a year higher than her 12-year-old brother, Gumball. Darwin is also in Gumball's class despite being two years younger, but that's not because he's skipped grades (he's not a particularly good student), he apparently just started early.
- 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, where he was actually warmly accepted by his new schoolmates, who's philosophy was "Party now, study later," while Dexter wanted to get a headstart on the schoolwork. His roommate pointed out that Dexter would burn himself out from all the heavy duty studying and said he should party to get it out of his system. By the time Dexter finally proved his schoolmates right, they were the ones wanting to study instead of party. Dexter's attempt to get a party got him expelled from the college and sent back to grade school.
- In an earlier episode, Dexter was considered for grade-skipping but needed to improve his PE-grades. He cheated his way into victory, which ended up making him Dee Dee's classmate.
- Angela Anaconda: Nanette was temporarily moved up as a result of Mrs. Brinks favoring her while grading.
- Kim Possible: Wade's five years younger than Kim and Ron, and according to the first season, he had already finished school up through at least a bachelor's degree by the time he was at least 10. Kim's brothers, Jim and Tim, are also this, and they end starting high school at the age of 12 in the final season.
- Rocket Power:
- Sam's the same age as Otto and Twister, but he's in the same grade as Otto's sister, Regina (or "Reggie"), who's two years older than Otto.
- Oliver van Rossum takes it even further. He is in high school and even helps his biology teacher. However, in later appearances he is attending the same school as the main characters.
- 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 didn't like his new classmates, saying they just spent all their time out of class smoking.
- One episode of The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius had the Title Character choosing to go straight to college after feeling unchallenged by his school's curriculum. However, once Jimmy gets to the college, he's no longer the smartest kid around (as all his new schoolmates are just as smart as he is) and he ends up being even more hated by his college classmates than he was by his old classmates.
- South Park: In the twelfth episode of the fourth season, Trapper Keeper, Kyle's brother, Ike, is admitted into Kindergarten two years early due to his high intelligence (for his age).
- 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's starting 9th-grade at the age of 13, meaning that he skipped ahead by at least one year at some point.
- Gwen Tennyson becomes this in the pilot episode of Ben 10: Omniverse. She finishes high school and starts college at only 16-years-old.
- Sam from Totally Spies! almost became this in the episodes "Spies in Space"—her high school principal informed her that her grades were the best in the history of the school, and offered to have Sam graduate from school as soon as the upcoming week. Although Sam was tempted to finish high school and start college, she ultimately decides to finish high school with her friends.
- Taken Up to Eleven with Lisa Loud from The Loud House. She's only four and has already finished school up through getting a Ph D (a type of doctorate degree), but later episodes show her attending Kindergarten.
- Big Hero 6: The Series:
- The series begins with 14-year old Hiro starting college.
- Prior to Hiro, Karmi was the youngest at the school and doesn't seem more than a year older than him. Due to jealousy she hates Hiro, but loves his superhero form.