Jumpstart To College

OHS student Leyla Vilic graduates early


Photo Courtesy of Leyla Vilic

Senior Leyla Vilic poses on Washington University’s campus after receiving early acceptance. “I’m excited to move on and start the next chapter of my life,” Vilic said. Vilic, like her older sister, obtained a full-ride scholarship and will start at WashU this fall.

Imagine—high school graduation is just around the corner. You earned a full-ride scholarship to your dream college and you are getting ready to start this new chapter of your life: adulthood. 

Except you’re not an adult. You just turned 16, you are the youngest in your class and just a few months ago you found out that you had the credits to be able to graduate early. This is exactly the situation for OHS senior Leyla Vilic. 

“Earlier this year, I went to have a meeting with Mr. Ventimiglia (OHS’s college and career counselor) about thinking about college and how that process will start,” Vilic said, “and he made a passing comment about me having all of my credits [to graduate] already. I didn’t realize anything until I got home later that night and I realized what he said. It was very spontaneous.”

Vilic has always had big dreams growing up, which consisted of going to college and becoming a doctor, but these dreams haven’t always been so in reach for her. Vilic comes from a family of two parents who immigrated to America from Bosnia, and there are many struggles that have come with that. 

“My parents have sacrificed a lot coming here from Bosnia after the war. There was a lot of uncertainty because they didn’t have an education and they had to work hard, odd jobs to get money,” Vilic said. “They tried to make it as easy for us as possible, but they worked hard and it wasn’t easy for them, so knowing that one day I’ll be able to have an education and a career that will provide for them as well is really giving to me.”

Vilic’s sister, Melisa, graduated from OHS last year and got a full-ride scholarship to Washington University. Leyla is following in her older sister’s footsteps by also obtaining a full-ride scholarship. Vilic’s tuition was covered by the official Washington University Scholarship based on her GPA, while the rest of her scholarship was covered by WashU Pledge, which covers room and board as well as extra fees, because she lives in St. Louis. 

“WashU was always the first school that I wanted to go to. It was both mine and my sister’s goal,” Vilic said. “I remember passing through there when we were younger and just driving around. I pointed to that school and I told my mom, ‘I’m gonna go there.’”

Vilic plans to major in neuroscience and minor in writing and Spanish at WashU.

“I have always wanted to be a doctor. I am leaning towards neurology as of right now, but I don’t know that for sure. It has always been something that I have wanted to do, though,” Vilic said. “And Spanish I have been taking for years now, and I love to write.” 

Vilic’s sister has been her motivation for as long as she can remember. 

“We have always been really close, and we both started off as really great students. Since she is older, she was always that role model that I looked up to. It’s almost like I’m impersonating her and following in her footsteps, and I am proud to be doing that,” Vilic said. “She is the one person in my life that I can admit that I am fully proud of, who motivates me.”

Vilic skipped kindergarten and part of her junior year of high school, which makes her just 16 years old and graduating. And although she sometimes feels like an outsider for being the youngest in her class, she has never let that hold her back from achieving her goals. 

“Don’t let anything stop you. When I decided to graduate early, a lot of people told me, ‘You’re not going to be ready for this.’ ‘You’re too young.’ ‘It’s a lot to handle,’” Vilic said, “and yeah, it might be, but you won’t know that until you try it. So don’t ever let someone stop you from doing what you want, no matter how difficult.”