Woman makes history after starting college at 10 and earning doctorate at 17

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By Nasima Khatun

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A woman has made history after starting college when she was just a child and earning herself a doctorate as a teenager.

Dorothy Jean Tillman II was only 10 years old when she started college and within a few years, she earned herself an associate’s, bachelor’s, and master’s degree at age 17.

While most of us are navigating the trials and tribulations of middle and high school, Tillman, hailed 'Dorothy Jeanius' by her loved ones, was working towards securing a Master of Science degree, as per an appearance on ABC's Good Morning America.

A year later, she was accepted into the Doctorate of Behavioral Health Management program at Arizona State University.


And by 2023, three years after she got her first degree, she successfully defended her dissertation to earn a doctoral degree in integrated behavioral health from the university's College of Health Solutions.

Did we mention she was only 17?!

On May 6, the teen was honored at ASU's spring commencement ceremony.

Speaking to the outlet, she stated that she always held the concept of education as an important aspect of life.

"People in my life like my grandmother, who was part of the Civil Rights movement, she of course harped on the importance of education and consistently learning something always," Tillman said.

"But the way I always held education so high on my own, aside from being raised that way, was finding different things to be educated about," she continued, before adding: "I feel like that urge to learn something new just never didn't exist for me."


The teen did most of her work through online courses due to the pandemic, though she didn't let that stop her from making history in Chicago.

Dr. Lesley Manson, clinical associate professor at ASU who oversaw Tillman's dissertation, told GMA that she also wrote a journal during her studies.

"She really led change and worked on different forms of management to really reduce healthcare stigma and improve that student population there to be able to enter and accept student health services," she said of Tillman. "It was wonderful to see her and help her navigate some of those personal and professional interactions and grow through those experiences."

Manson described the now-18-year-old as an "inquisitive" and "innovative" student, and emphasized just how rare it is to accomplish what she has so far.

"It's a wonderful celebration ... but this is still something so rare and unique," she said. "She has innovative ideas and motivation, which is wonderful, and truly, I think what is inspiring is that she embodies that meaning of being a true leader."


When speaking of the future, Tillman explained that she still hasn't got it all figured out just yet.

Describing herself as "just like any other teenager", she said that she's still "figuring out what [her] specific dreams and goals are."

"I'm really just grateful that the world is my oyster, and that I've done so much so young and I have time to kind of think that through," she added.

Congratulations to Tillaman. We have no doubt that she has a bright future ahead of her.

Featured Image Credit: Eyesfoto/Getty

Woman makes history after starting college at 10 and earning doctorate at 17

vt-author-image

By Nasima Khatun

Article saved!Article saved!

A woman has made history after starting college when she was just a child and earning herself a doctorate as a teenager.

Dorothy Jean Tillman II was only 10 years old when she started college and within a few years, she earned herself an associate’s, bachelor’s, and master’s degree at age 17.

While most of us are navigating the trials and tribulations of middle and high school, Tillman, hailed 'Dorothy Jeanius' by her loved ones, was working towards securing a Master of Science degree, as per an appearance on ABC's Good Morning America.

A year later, she was accepted into the Doctorate of Behavioral Health Management program at Arizona State University.


And by 2023, three years after she got her first degree, she successfully defended her dissertation to earn a doctoral degree in integrated behavioral health from the university's College of Health Solutions.

Did we mention she was only 17?!

On May 6, the teen was honored at ASU's spring commencement ceremony.

Speaking to the outlet, she stated that she always held the concept of education as an important aspect of life.

"People in my life like my grandmother, who was part of the Civil Rights movement, she of course harped on the importance of education and consistently learning something always," Tillman said.

"But the way I always held education so high on my own, aside from being raised that way, was finding different things to be educated about," she continued, before adding: "I feel like that urge to learn something new just never didn't exist for me."


The teen did most of her work through online courses due to the pandemic, though she didn't let that stop her from making history in Chicago.

Dr. Lesley Manson, clinical associate professor at ASU who oversaw Tillman's dissertation, told GMA that she also wrote a journal during her studies.

"She really led change and worked on different forms of management to really reduce healthcare stigma and improve that student population there to be able to enter and accept student health services," she said of Tillman. "It was wonderful to see her and help her navigate some of those personal and professional interactions and grow through those experiences."

Manson described the now-18-year-old as an "inquisitive" and "innovative" student, and emphasized just how rare it is to accomplish what she has so far.

"It's a wonderful celebration ... but this is still something so rare and unique," she said. "She has innovative ideas and motivation, which is wonderful, and truly, I think what is inspiring is that she embodies that meaning of being a true leader."


When speaking of the future, Tillman explained that she still hasn't got it all figured out just yet.

Describing herself as "just like any other teenager", she said that she's still "figuring out what [her] specific dreams and goals are."

"I'm really just grateful that the world is my oyster, and that I've done so much so young and I have time to kind of think that through," she added.

Congratulations to Tillaman. We have no doubt that she has a bright future ahead of her.

Featured Image Credit: Eyesfoto/Getty