Teen walks at graduation after completing doctoral degree at 17

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abcnews.go.com/living/story/teenager-earns-doct…

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29 Comments

NotNotMike

I'm really torn on news like this.

I'll get it out of the way that I am jealous. I wish I had been able to do what she did. I also think that if more people cared about education on this level, we could really get a significantly smarter population and start to solve some of the problems in the world.

Having said that, I have concerns over what her life is like. I would need a lot more details to feel comfortable that this kind of lifestyle is healthy for someone. She missed out on most of her childhood at this point, a time most adults look back on fondly as a time when they had no responsibilities. I have so many follow-up questions that the article doesn't address.

  • Is she truly self-motivated or does she have someone like her parents urging her to do this?
  • Given a choice, would she do it again?
  • What was her workload like? Was she constantly studying or is she lucky enough to not need to?

Also, more for my curiosity than anyone else's well-being:

  • How do you even sign a 10 year old up for college?
  • Do professors give leniency to an 11 year old in class or are they getting the same experience an 18 year old would get?
Kajko , edited

I was accelerated (though nowhere like this) and for me, personally, it wasn't great. 14 was not the right age for me to decide to be a doctor and enroll. I did the whole thing and I have the diploma but I never worked in the field because I had completely burned out by then.

Of course I'm also AuDHD and maybe my mental health wouldn't be any better in different circumstances, we'll never know.

Duamerthrax

Whenever this topic comes up, people ignore the other side. I was placed in Remedial classes, which might as well have been called Deceleration. Placed in classes with bullies for all of K-12 just because some over eager physiologist decided I had a learning disability and my over protective mother went along with it. The high schools was incredibility stratified having four different levels, not including special ed. I was placed in the bottom rung every time. When they brought me in to discuss what classes I should take in high school, they never actually explained anything, but apparently that counts as agreeing to it.

My social life sucked, my academic life sucked, and I hate everything to do with that place. I would love to be able to look back and only regret the social life being bad. At least my options would be better two shitty community colleges.

And if you're wondering about my intelligence, I've never completed a single college course, but routinely get mistaken for an engineering graduate, even by engineering professors.

Xhieron , edited

These are all really excellent questions. My son skipped a grade early in gradeschool, and I am fortunate enough to have a friend who had a similar experience as this young lady (albeit not to the same extent) being hyper-accelerated through school, so we were able to interview him about his experience when making decisions about how to handle our exceptional kiddo's education.

It was not a fun conversation, and as a result we elected to just let our son take advanced classes when possible and not really push to have him skip additional grades or do any of the wacky stuff with enrolling in college as a child or what have you. Of course we're going to push him to take stuff that is challenging whenever possible, and I'd love for him to graduate high school with as much college credit as possible--but I'm not about to steal his youth in pursuit of putting a PhD on his wall before he's old enough to vote.

The short version is that our friend was a very miserable child. His advancement essentially meant he had no peers, and especially among teenagers, the acceleration just put a bullseye on his back, since the people who surrounded him either resented him or saw him as a target for bullying. Even professional educators at times resented him. He was adamant that it was a thing he would never put his own children through.

Is that a typical experience? I have no idea; after all, being a child in higher education is already well outside ordinary experience. But the story was enough to make me worry for the child whenever I read a headline like this.

The_v

I was an advanced learner and started college at 16. The only reason I didn't start at 14 was because I had to get a highschool diploma or GED to qualify for financial assistance. It took me 18 months after acceptance into university to get the adult education diploma.

Up until then I had moved along with my class, always placed in the advanced courses.

Basically school sucked for me.

In my experience being in the 99+% sucks socially growing up and even into adulthood. There is no easy path for these kids. They do not fit in anywhere. There is no "right" path for all of them. Each has to figure it out on their own and suffer through it.

NotNotMike

Excellent point on the peers, I was thinking about that as well.

Humans love to talk to other humans who have shared experiences. People get excited when they find someone who went to the same school as them, even if they were years apart. Those shared experiences help us bond and connect with others.

Who in the world can she bond with? Few people have experienced anything close to what she has. I worry that it will lead to somewhat of a lonely existence, at least until she's old enough that she has some more experiences under her belt and can begin to relate to others more. Until then, the experience that 95% of Americans share is missing.

I'm hoping it's something that will balance out as she gets older, but I don't see it being a fun time for the first decade at least.

Neato

Do professors give leniency to an 11 year old in class or are they getting the same experience an 18 year old would get?

If I was going to guess and be pessimistic: her parents were in class with her. She likely wasn't living on campus at 10-14 and can't drive so she's likely escorted.

Ech

I don't see why her parents would need to be present in class? Commute in, sure, but otherwise it'd be pretty much the same as any high-school. They'd just drop her off and pick her up when she's done for the day.

scarabic

She missed out on most of her childhood

Did she? What is this statement based on? Do we know that she never had a birthday party or sleepover? Do we know she never dug a hole in the backyard or watched cartoons?

NotNotMike

We don't know, and that's precisely what my comment was talking about. I want to know more.

Although we can use an educated guess that if you're getting a doctorate you probably don't have a ton of free time, at least not nearly as much as a normal student her age has. Even if we assume she doesn't need to study at all, a doctorate still takes up a lot of someone's time, and doesn't leave a ton of time for watching cartoons.

scarabic , edited

You didn’t ask, you stated she missed her childhood.

Your other questions are answered in the article. She says over and over how pleased and thankful she is, and more than one person cites her insatiable desire to learn. The world is full of people. Some of them are crazy academics. I’m not so threatened by this story that I need her to be unhappy.

Nor am I going to say that a kid who used their childhood to learn “missed out.” A kid who blew it all on Minecraft missed out on a lot as well if we’re going to be honest.

NotNotMike

I feel like you're weirdly aggro about this discussion. I don't want my message to come off as criticism or hate, I'm trying to express that I'm concerned about another person. If she really is happier because of her path, then that's great and more kids should attempt this lifestyle. But I just don't have enough evidence for that fact, and I would like to hear more. Most of the positive evidence is from a short article.

Right now I have more anecdotal evidence saying this is unhealthy in this comment section than I do the contrary, so I want to be proven wrong. I don't want to be correct that someone had a bad experience.

Your other questions are answered in the article.

They really aren't. Of course she'll say she's thankful, most people would when talking to a reporter. I don't imagine many 17 year olds would immediately start bad-mouthing their parents right away, especially considering I'd expect the parents to be present in the interview process since she's a minor by U.S. standards.

And of course the instructors are complimentary, you'd hear the same compliments about any student who asked questions and went to office hours. They aren't particularly unique for her experience, frankly. I wouldn't put too much weight on them being evidence of her happiness.

Perhaps down the road she'll give an interview and talk about her experience more, once she's more independent and had more time to process and reflect. Then perhaps my questions will be properly answered. I can only hope so, and I can only hope she reflects positively.

A kid who blew it all on Minecraft missed out on a lot as well if we’re going to be honest.

I never said anything to the contrary. Both can be true, they aren't mutually exclusive. I would agree spending too much time glued to a screen is also not a healthy lifestyle for a child

stembolts , edited

All the rigor of school, none of the fun.

Jk, good for her. I don't envy her life at all though, meandering about the university grounds drunk or stoned with friends was some of the best nights of my life.

grrgyle , edited

My first instinct is to agree that I don't envy her either, but her experience of childhood/school is so different than mine that I don't even have a frame of reference. Maybe she's having the time of her life? I hope so anyway

stembolts

Could be. If 17 year old me had chosen my life trajectory I'd be having a bad time. Hopefully she has better advisors and plans that don't have her chasing achievements as a way of life. Or an insatiable infatuation with chasing achievements. That can be a way of life too, just not one I'd want.

Beaver

It’s true you gotta savour life.

NOT_RICK

Dorothy Jean Tillman II told "Good Morning America" that she was homeschooled in her early years before entering college at age 10.

In 2020, she said she earned a Master of Science degree, and then, one year later, at age 15, was accepted into the Doctorate of Behavioral Health Management program at Arizona State University.

In December 2023, at 17, Tillman successfully defended her dissertation to earn her doctoral degree in integrated behavioral health from ASU's College of Health Solutions

cyborganism

This could've been me if video games and porn didn't exist.

I'm kidding. I'm just dumb.

I'm kidding. I'm just dumb.

hey come on, don't say that to yourself, you genius gamer masturbators.

ID411

Come the revolution comrade, there will we doctorates in porn, video games and many other culturally enriching topics.

Doctorates for all .

pete_the_cat

Talk about a freaking genius! 😳

KevonLooney

Well, it is ASU...

FrenziedFelidFanatic

Tillman is the youngest person in school history to earn a doctoral degree in integrated behavioral health.

I love how specific this is. Like, they have 12 year olds going through math PhDs constantly, but integrated behavioral health? She’s the youngest.

muzzle

A speedrunner?

brbposting

Showoff

Empricorn

Please save our world, Dorothy! I know it's a lot to ask, but you may be the only one who can...

joe_archer

Deleted by author

DessertStorms

Lol, imagine having to take digs at a literal teenaged doctor because their success makes you feel that insecure in yourself..

Blum0108

It's not that bad of a sentence and probably flows better spoken vs written. There is no need to insult her. Get off your high horse.

CarbonatedPastaSauce

Your last line is a sentence fragment, Mr. English Professor. There are several other errors in your masterful takedown of the good doctor’s command of the English language.