Girl who started college at 10 earns doctorate degree at 17

Girl who started college at 10 earns doctorate degree at 17

Dorothy Jean Tillman II, a remarkable teenager who began her college journey at the age of 10, has earned her doctorate degree at just 17. Tillman participated in Arizona State University’s commencement on May 6, marking a significant milestone in her extraordinary educational journey.

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Tillman’s academic path began when she took her first college course at age 10. Over the years, she earned an associate’s degree, a bachelor’s degree, and a master’s degree, all before reaching adulthood.

In December 2023, Tillman successfully defended her dissertation, becoming the youngest person to earn a doctoral degree in integrated behavioral health at Arizona State University. Associate professor Leslie Manson praised Tillman’s achievements, expressing hope that her success will inspire more students. “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.”

Affectionately called “Dorothy Jeanius” by family and friends, Tillman is the granddaughter of former Chicago Alderwoman Dorothy Tillman. Her educational journey began when her mother enrolled her in classes at the College of Lake County in northern Illinois, where she majored in psychology and completed her associate’s degree in 2016.

Tillman went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in humanities from New York’s Excelsior College in 2018 and a master’s of science from Unity College in Maine in 2020. In 2021, she was accepted into Arizona State’s Behavioral Health Management Program, where she completed most of her coursework remotely.

Attending her Arizona State commencement in person, Tillman addressed the graduating class, sharing her gratitude and inspiration. She credited her grandmother and her mother’s guidance for her educational achievements. “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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