Albion student shares inspiring story of college life at age 15

June 15, 2023

It’s not every Albion student who starts taking college classes at 12 years old, but Shannon Barba is not your typical Albion student.

Barba’s parents knew he was special when he was asked to take an IQ test at 9 years old after teachers noticed he did significantly well in class. His results? He scored a 160-plus IQ.

Afterwards, Barba spent his youth transferring to different schools throughout his New Mexico hometown in search of accommodations for higher level classes. He eventually started taking community college classes at age 12 at Central New Mexico Community College.

In 2019, he moved to Marshall, Michigan, where he finished his high school career at Marshall High School. Barba graduated high school at age 15 in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic, which impacted his search.

“After COVID, things were strange as we looked at colleges,” Barba said. “Albion stood out. The second we got there for our tour, people were immediately welcoming and had the attitude of ‘we want you to come here, we want to make this work for you.’ It is a community, which is the best thing about Albion for me.”

Since Barba was 15 as a freshman, he could not live on campus. He says he didn’t mind living at home during that time; it didn’t stop him from creating friendships and joining multiple groups. Barba is vice president of student senate, president of the union board, co-president of the chess club and president of the society of physics students.

“College is about people who want to be there and learn,” Barba explained. “It was good for me being in that sort of environment. I met some of my best friends through union board; it’s a good time and valuable experience.”

Now a junior, Barba is double majoring in physics and computer science – a field with a lot of opportunities. He says Albion was the perfect fit for him in his not-so-typical journey to learn and find a place to call home.

“The connections you build in smaller classes are important,” Barba noted. “Professors at Albion encourage working together and brainstorming, which is a useful experience. Albion does a really good job of bringing people together.”

After graduation, Barba plans to get a master’s degree in engineering at MIT. Barba says he is too young to have a precise plan on what he wants to do for a living, but he is leaning towards working on robotics for NASA.

“I want to be an engineer when I grow up,” said Barba. “When you get to college, the question becomes ‘what do you want to be when you graduate?’ But for me, it’s still ‘what do I want to be when I grow up?’

“For now, I know I want to do robotics work at NASA. I have so much to learn so I don’t want to limit myself. I’m sure the plan will change but I’m just really looking forward to diving into that.”

Barba is spending his summer break involved in the community. He is home in Marshall participating in the musical, “Mamma Mia!” His friends at Albion College came to the performance to cheer him on.

“It’s kind of like a cross-over event,” Barba jokes. “It is really cool to see my friends out there showing me support.”

Barba will graduate in spring 2024. He says he can’t wait to get back to dive back into all things Albion. For Barba, this is just the beginning.