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Motivated middle schooler thrives in first semester as BW student

For most of his life, 14-year-old William Warren '26 says he struggled to stay engaged and fulfilled in school. Then he met a BW professor who offered him the mental workout he craved. Now he's pursuing a degree full time at BW.

William Warren

There are plenty of smart, ambitious students at Baldwin Wallace University, but only one has celebrated a 14th birthday during their first semester.

To understand how William Warren '26 wound up enrolling at BW at the tender age of 13, you have to understand his earlier educational journey.

Seeking answers

Curious and questioning from an early age, he once asked his mom, C.J. Warren, why balloons float. Her answer, that the helium inside is lighter than air, didn't satisfy him. "But the balloon isn't lighter," he countered, leading to a deeper explanation about buoyancy.

At the time, Warren was two.

"I was always inquisitive and asked how things worked," Warren recalls. "I wouldn't always get a good answer, though."

Frustrated in grade school

Later, even though he attended a special school for gifted students, Warren was increasingly unhappy.

"A lot of times, school wouldn't fill that knowledge void I had," Warren says. "So, I had to seek things out on my own time."

Too often, teachers assigned him more volume of repetitive work rather than challenging his mind and fostering his voracious curiosity and drive to discover.

Finding physics

William Warren and lab partner Matthew Oros '24 eye the precision of their physics lab setup.

That all started to change when Warren began homeschooling during COVID-19 and read Neil DeGrasse Tyson's book "Astrophysics for People in a Hurry."

"I felt at home," Warren says of the inspiration the book provided. But he also wanted more answers and "more physics."

After taking some Harvard University open, online courses in physics and chemistry, Warren and his mom sought out BW physics professor Dr. Edwin Meyer, the University's resident champion of problem-solving and the development of "mental stamina."

"The key for me is for the student to 'sit in' the problem for a long time, exploring it and wondering about it in an effort to reach a new level of understanding," Meyer explains. "In the current educational system, this is viewed as inefficient because the student will get the answer a lot faster if the teacher shows the student how to do it."

Flexing brain muscles

Edwin Meyer

Meyer, who's written books on problem-solving and leads popular community seminars and summer camps for people of all ages, met with the Warrens and was impressed with the middle schooler's ability to keep trying to solve hard problems rather than giving up or asking for the answer.

"William does not need an authoritarian teacher to tell him the answers; he needs a coach to provide appropriate challenges and to encourage him to figure things out for himself," Meyer observes.

Warren says, "He [Meyer] awakened the problem-solving process in me and got me building mental strength for logic. It's like working out, only you can't see the result on the outside."

Meyer allowed the then-seventh grader to audit his Physics 131 class in the spring, where he successfully completed the coursework as a 13-year-old alongside older college classmates.

"William actively got excited again about using his brain," C.J. Warren remembers.

Enrolling in college at 13

William Warren, far right, and his BW classmates in Dr. Meredith Whitt's physics lab.

At the end of the semester, Meyer recommended Warren apply to enroll full time at BW. Warren was "kinda nervous," but he was accepted and is fitting right in.

"It's not often a 13-year-old is admitted to college, and we believe William is the youngest student ever to attend BW," says Scott Schulz, BW vice president for enrollment management. "As we would for any student, we looked at his application holistically and decided he had the potential to be a successful member of our student body."

Fitting in

An aspiring quantum physicist, Warren invites the inevitable comparison to TV's precocious "Young Sheldon," but he's enjoying a rounded experience at BW.

Fellow students have embraced him, not only happily partnering with Warren on classwork but also inviting him to campus social events.

"I've been shocked at how welcoming and supportive everyone here at BW has been," C.J. Warren says.

Aspiring to make breakthroughs

14-year-old William Warren fits right in at BW.

Meanwhile, Warren sees a Ph.D. and lots more mental gymnastics in his future.

"I'd love to discover something through logic or figure out something nobody else has at the tabletop level just by thinking hard about it," he imagines. "Einstein made breakthroughs just by thinking logically."

You can bet the BW community will be rooting him on in whatever perplexing problem he takes on.

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