Graduating Early—Make That, Very Early

By Sean Cavanagh — May 14, 2009 1 min read
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Three cheers for Danielle McBurnett, who at age 17, became the youngest person ever to receive a bachelor’s degree from Arizona State University’s College of Nursing and Healthcare Innovation. She even graduated summa cum laude.

McBurnett was home-schooled, began taking community college classes at age 12, and picked up her high school diploma at age 15, according to the Associated Press.

If you read the story, it’s a reminder that extraordinarily gifted students in science and other subjects tend to be extremely well rounded, contrary to popular stereotypes, which have them chained to a desk somewhere, studying nonstop. I was reminded of that a few years ago when I wrote about a study documenting the experiences of high-performers in math and science competitions, who also happened to be the sons and daughters of immigrants. In the case of McBurnett, she had dreamed of becoming a nurse from a young age, and she’s planning on entering the school’s doctoral nursing program. But she’s also considering going to law school. One of her fellow ASU graduates is the apparently multi-talented Raymond Singh, who at the age of 17 will earn a B.A. in aerospace engineering. He hopes to pursue a doctorate in that area, too. But after that he says he’s going to spend a year learning the theory and practice of classical music.

Why not? The young man will have his whole life ahead of him—a few more years than most Ph.D. recipients, it turns out.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.