Home » Suborno Bari graduated high school at 12, heading to college at NYU

Suborno Bari graduated high school at 12, heading to college at NYU

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Suborno Isaac Bari said his first words when he was 6 months old. By age 2, he had memorized the periodic table.

“He was always different,” said his father, Rashidul Bari.

But he and his wife didn’t anticipate that Suborno would breeze through his education so quickly and confidently. Suborno just graduated from high school at age 12 — and he’s headed to New York University next month on a full scholarship.

“It feels super good,” Suborno said in an interview with The Washington Post.

Suborno — who lives with his family on Long Island — said even when he was in kindergarten and at the start of elementary school, he felt too advanced for his classes.

“It wasn’t really stimulating,” he said, explaining that he began to study his father’s old university textbooks, and he also absorbed facts and concepts by reading articles online and watching academic YouTube videos.

Suborno’s father is a doctoral candidate at Columbia University, and he teaches high school physics. His mother is an elementary school teacher and is also getting her master’s degree in early-childhood education from City College of New York.

At age 2, Suborno gained attention online after he was interviewed in 2014 by a vice president at the City College of New York. In a video of their exchange, Suborno lists the elements of the periodic table.

In 2016, Suborno received a letter of recognition from President Barack Obama, which Bari posted on social media. It was picked up by reporters around the world, including in South Asia, where Bari was born. Suborno soon attracted interest from colleges in New York and elsewhere. Mumbai University reached out to the Baris, inviting Suborno to be a guest lecturer in physics at age 7, which he did.

When the pandemic hit, and Suborno was completing third grade remotely, “that was the last straw,” he said. “I was extremely bored. That’s when my parents really noticed a lot more that I needed some stimulation.”

When he enrolled as a fourth-grader in the Malverne Union Free School District, teachers and administrators immediately took note of Suborno’s advanced abilities. They met with the Baris to discuss a path forward for Suborno.

“The principal told me that his understanding is in the 12th-grade level or beyond,” said Bari, explaining that school staff said his son excelled in every subject, especially in reading.

“Very quickly, we recognized that he could take on a lot more than your typical child,” said Rebecca Gottesman, the director of K-12 counseling at Malverne Union Free School District.

It was important to the Baris — and to school staff — that if Suborno skipped some grades, he still maintained social time with his peers.

“We were just as committed to developing his social and emotional development, as well as his academic aptitude,” Gottesman said, adding that she believes Suborno is a prodigy.

They decided that Suborno would become a hybrid student, spending his mornings in higher grade levels, then relocating to the elementary school to spend afternoon time playing with students his age.

“I felt fine interacting with people who were older than me,” Suborno said. “I really felt at home no matter if I was with 10- and 11-year-olds, or if I was at the high school. It didn’t really matter to me.”

“He did extremely well,” his father said. “He makes lots of friends.”

Gottesman said Suborno regularly offered academic support to other students — including those who are several years his senior.

“Even though he’s so bright, he’s not intimidating,” she said. “He’s warm, he’s engaging, he wants to help everyone.”

Suborno, whose favorite subjects are math and physics, skipped fifth, sixth, seventh, 10th and 11th grades. He took five advanced placement classes — and passed every test with the highest score, 5, on all except AP physics 1, for which he got a 4, he said. He earned more than the required credits to graduate from high school in New York.

“He has earned every single one of them legitimately,” said Gottesman, noting that Suborno took courses during the summer as well. “It’s really hard to do what Suborno did. It’s hard to do at 18 years old, forget about doing it at 12. That’s what makes this such an exceptional situation.”

Despite his scholastic aptitude, graduating high school at age 12 came with challenges.

“There’s been such dramatic changes going from elementary to middle school, having to handle all the new homework and the scary exams,” Suborno said. “It’s been a struggle for me to say the least, but you need a struggle to grow.”

Suborno said when he’s not studying, he enjoys biking, gardening, piano and chess. “I still have all the free time I could want … I don’t want to waste any time just sitting there.”

He said it was his decision to fast-track his education. He graduated on June 26, becoming the youngest person to graduate from Malverne High School.

“Being productive while actually enjoying what you do, that’s really my main goal,” Suborno said.

Suborno started taking college courses last spring, which he chose to do in his spare time during evenings and weekends.

“It’s really just the curiosity and spark of wanting to learn what’s behind everything,” he said.

This summer, he is taking a physics course at New York City College of Technology, a math course — ordinary differential equations — at the City College of New York and another math course — real analysis 1 — at Hunter College. He attends all three classes in-person.

“He was insisting on doing these courses,” his father said. “I drive him from one campus to the other.”

In March, Suborno, then still 11, received an acceptance letter from New York University. He will start as a commuter student in August and will work toward his bachelor’s degree in math and physics. He is believed to be the youngest person to be admitted to the college.

“At this time, without undertaking a complete review of our records, NYU is unaware of anyone younger than Suborno being admitted,” Lynn Higinbotham, the senior associate vice president and chief of staff at the school, wrote in a statement to The Post.

Suborno credits his family, teachers and mentors with helping him achieve his goals so far in his young life.

“All of the excellent work that my teachers and professors have put in, as well as all of the support provided by my parents and my brother, everything has helped me succeed,” he said.

His older brother, Refath Bari, 21, graduated from City College of New York with a bachelor of science. He is soon starting his graduate degree at Brown University, studying physics.

Suborno said he is looking forward to being a full-time college student.

“I feel ready to take on college, not just academically but also socially,” he said.

Suborno’s ultimate ambition is to become a math and physics professor, with a focus on teaching students with limited access to higher education and academic resources.

“That’s really my motivation for going into this field,” he said.

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