17-Year-Old Black Teen Who Started College At 10 Earns Doctoral Degree

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A Chicago teenager who took her first college course at age 10 recently earned a doctoral degree at 17.

Dorothy Jean Tillman defended her dissertation at Arizona State University in December, becoming the youngest person to earn a doctoral degree in integrated behavioral health at the school. She participated in ASU's commencement ceremony early this month, marking her latest achievement in higher education.

“It’s a wonderful celebration, and we hope ... that Dorothy Jean inspires more students,” associate professor Leslie Manson told Good Morning America. “But this is still something so rare and unique.”

Tillman's journey in higher education began in middle school when her mother enrolled her in classes at the College of Lake County in Illinois. Tillman majored in psychology and earned her associate's degree in 2016.

She went on to receive her bachelor's degree in humanities from New York’s Excelsior College in 2018. Roughly two years later, Tillman held a master's degree from Unity College in Maine. Tillman was accepted into Arizona State's Behavioral Health Management Program in 2021.

Tillman completed most of her schooling online. She attended the commencement ceremony at ASU in person, delivering a speech to the graduating class.

Tillman credited her grandmother and mother's guidance for her success in her educational pursuits.

“Everything that we were doing didn’t seem abnormal to me or out of the ordinary until it started getting all of the attention,” Tillman, now 18, said.

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