Thursday, September 21, 2006
Well, that's one way to avoid student loans.
18-year-old graduates from University of Virginia in one year.

David Banh went in with 72 credit hours from AP exams (including a few for which he didn't take the courses). He then took a 23-hour semester, a 37-hour semester, and a 3-hour summer semester. And he had so many scholarships that selling his books back technically netted him a profit.

On the one hand, I think this is amazing and creative and shows a lot of dedication and drive. On the other hand, how much of the college experience did he put aside in order to get through that quickly? He said he still hung out and played video games, but I find that hard to believe. 37 hours of classes is basically an entire working week at school, and there was still homework left to do.

I'm admittedly biased because I took two straight semesters of just 18 hours, and those and my extracurriculars did a real number on my health. 15-16 seems a much more reasonable framework to me.

That said, I think there are some good lessons for people who want to save money on school.

  • Take AP classes and attend schools that will accept them. Not every course will be as rigorous in high school as in college, but I suspect some frosh distribution requirements would be served with AP credit as well as a semester in class. And completing general requirements allows you to get on with the "real" major requirements more quickly.
  • Scrounge up every little scholarship that you can find.The article doesn't detail every scholarship that he received, but I'm left with the distinct impression that several smaller scholarships went towards the tuition bill along with some larger grants.
  • Consider staying in-state if you find a program that you like. Not every public school has the reputation of University of Virginia, but there are several excellent state schools that can chop your tuition bill by quite a lot.
  • Consider schools that will allow you to combine undergraduate and graduate studies. By networking with professors and other graduate students, he was able to contribute to a higher-level research project very quickly and will probably finish his master's within another year as well.


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