Accepted by nine law schools at just 16, Haley Taylor Schlitz has now been sworn to a state bar at 21

BY Preta Peace Namasaba March 10, 2024 8:47 AM EDT
Haley Taylor Schlitz. Photo credit: Southern Methodist University

The Texas public school system didn’t think Haley Taylor Schlitz was smart. When her previously high grades began to decline in the fifth grade, her parents were keen to get to the root of the matter. Her mother suggested she was bored and needed more advanced courses but the school administration disagreed. Schlitz proved them all wrong. She finished high school at only 13 years old, was accepted into nine different law schools when she was 16 and became the youngest Black American to earn a law degree at just 19.

Now 21, Schlitz is one of the youngest people to be sworn into the Minnesota State Bar Association. But Schlitz is quick to point out that her extraordinary journey has been so for other reasons.

“One of the biggest challenges for me was overcoming the people who kept trying to stop me. A teacher who doesn’t think that I should be 13 and in college, or the friend or classmate or mentor who doesn’t think I should be doing what I am. It’s always difficult to just ignore the haters, especially when some people have decision-making power, but I knew I could handle it. I don’t really care if people think that I can’t do what I’m doing because I know I can,” Schlitz said.

Although Schlitz’s path has been far from conventional, she objects to being called a genius for it alienates those who can be inspired by her story. She believe she was taught to get to the next grade and not emphatically learn while still in traditional school. The school claimed that Schlitz didn’t qualify to be tested for the “gifted and talented” program because she was in elementary school and only students in kindergarten were allowed to apply. However, other students who were not of color in the same grade were testing for the program and getting in. It was apparent that these exceptions only applied to Schlitz who wasn’t believed to be gifted.

Disappointed in the school’s response, Schlitz’s parents decided to homeschool her. They had her privately tested and discovered what they already knew – she was gifted. She had fun learning at her own pace and was inspired to race ahead. At only 13 years old, Schlitz graduated from high school. She majored in chemistry, planning to follow in her mother’s footsteps and become a doctor. However, upon major self-reflection on her life goals and aspirations, she switched her major to education. She was driven by her experience of being denied a chance to enter the gifted program to change the way the K-12 system works.

Schlitz had earned her undergraduate degree from Texas Woman’s University by the age of 16. Her passion for fighting inequality led Schlitz to law school and education policy. Remarkably, she was accepted into nine different law schools across the country when she was 16. She eventually chose to attend Southern Methodist University’s Dedman School of Law. In addition to her academic accomplishments, Schlitz has participated in the American Civil Liberties Union’s Teen Summer Public Policy Program and served as the youngest delegate ever to the Texas Democratic Party convention. 

In 2022, Schlitz graduated with a Juris Doctor from the Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law. The 19-year-old prodigy made history as the youngest Black American to ever earn a law degree. She went on to sit the bar exam in Minnesota to earn a license that allows her to practice law in the North Star State. Now 22, Schlitz has become one of the youngest attorneys to be sworn into the Minnesota State Bar Association.

Schlitz has been teaching since she graduated from law school. She is currently teaching U.S. History to fifth graders at IDEA Edgecliff, a K-9 public school in Fort Worth, Texas. She has founded the community civic education program Trailblazers Forum: Youth Civic Engagement in the Dallas and Fort Worth area to engage and empower students between the ages of 12 and 16 to make a positive impact on their communities through civic action. Schlitz still has her sights set on the law and intends to pursue additional bar licenses.

An author and activist, Schlitz is inspiring others to pursue success despite the prevailing limitations.
“You don’t find your path. You make it. Take life by the reins, by the horns, and just really make what you want your reality. It’s OK to make mistakes. Just go back to your foundation and build up again and don’t be confined to boxes or stereotypes or when other people are trying to say whether it’s no or yes. It’s really up to you,” said Schlitz.