Girl who started college at 10 earns doctorate degree at 17

Girl who started college at 10 earns doctorate degree at 17

A teen who started college at the age of 10 earned a doctorate degree at 17

Dorothy Jean Tillman II’s participated in Arizona State University’s commencement on May 6. It was the latest step on a higher-education journey the Chicago teen started when she took her first college course at age 10.

In between she earned associate’s, bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

When Tillman successfully defended her dissertation in December, 2023, she became the youngest person — at age 17 — to earn a doctoral degree in integrated behavioral health at Arizona State, associate professor Leslie Manson told ABC’s “Good Morning America” for a story Monday.


“It’s a wonderful celebration, and we hope … that Dorothy Jean inspires more students,” Manson said. “But this is still something so rare and unique.”


Tillman, called “Dorothy Jeanius” by family and friends, is the granddaughter of former Chicago Alderwoman Dorothy Tillman.


When most students are just learning to navigate middle school, her mother enrolled Tillman in classes through the College of Lake County in northern Illinois, where she majored in psychology and completed her associate’s degree in 2016, according to her biography.


Tillman earned a bachelor’s in humanities from New York’s Excelsior College in 2018. About two years later, she earned her master’s of science from Unity College in Maine before being accepted in 2021 into Arizona State’s Behavioral Health Management Program.


Most of her classwork was done remotely and online.


Tillman attended her Arizona State commencement in person and addressed the graduating class during the ceremony.


Tillman told The Associated Press on Tuesday, May 14, that she credits her grandmother and trusting in her mother’s guidance for her educational pursuits and successes.


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

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