Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Teen Finishes University of Michigan in One Year

We read a lot these days about perpetual college students -- and college drop-out rates -- so I thought it was refreshing to see an article this morning about a young woman who enrolled at the University of Michigan in the fall and will be graduating this summer. You can read the article here.

Nicole Matisse attended high school outside Detroit, and finished up the curriculum there by her junior year. So then she took enough classes at Oakland Community College to transfer into Michigan as a junior. Rather than coast through her college experience, she then decided to double up on credits and finish up this spring. As a result, she'll be graduating with a bachelor's degree at age 19, and starting law school this fall.

Since Matisse did this all this curriculum compacting at ages 17-19, news accounts of her story feature a notable lack of teeth-gnashing about the topic. Often, children who finish college at age 19 -- because they start at age 14 or 15 -- encounter a lot of skeptical folks who wax nostalgic about their own high school and college experiences.

But there is no particular reason high school or college "should" take 4 years apiece. Indeed, there are many advantages in getting done sooner. Matisse can start her law career with more time and energy for that ladder, or she can get another degree and still be the same age as most of her peers when she starts her first job. With the scandal in student loans filling the airwaves, it should be noted that people who finish college in less time often wind up with fewer loans than people who take longer.

Unfortunately, though, I worry about how the very efficient Matisse will find law school. The first year tends to be tough, but by October or November of year two, most major law firms have hired their summer associates for the following summer. As one law firm recruiter once told me, they then give offers to just about any summer associate who doesn't drool on herself. So Matisse will find that only 1.2 years of her three-year law school program actually matter. Business school is even worse. Most firms hire their summer interns by November of the first year of B-school, then hire them permanently after the summer. That means only 2 months of the whole 2-year program matter. But perhaps this gifted young woman will find a way to introduce the concept of curriculum compacting to graduate school as well.


Anonymous said...

You seem to be assuming that the sole purpose of law school or biz school is to get hired. What happened to the idea of learning something?

Anonymous said...

Anon - sorry. As a law school graduate, I can assure you that law school is a trade school and you go there to learn a trade and get a job. B-school is more akin to a networking opportunity extended for 2 years and so even less of an emphasis is placed on learning.

In truth, Ms. Matisse will be lucky to get a job at all out of Wayne State (which is a not a well-regarded law school) let alone having recruiters fawning over her. Recruiters will pay $195,000 to anyone out of Harvard Law who doesn't drool -- you've got to be tip-top of your class (as in top-10 people, not %) to have a prayer at that type of interview and even then you can't touch the best firms.

Finally, college is the best 4-5 years of your life, period. To make it any shorter for any reason other than to support your family is a DUMB decision.

Anonymous said...

No, college is the best 4-5 years of YOUR life. Not necessarily hers. This girl is an obvious prodigy, and there's plenty of reason to believe that she won't have ordinary law firm ladder-climbing aspirations when she finishes law school. After all, she'll only be as old as the average college graduate.

Anonymous said...

Some people rush through school and I wonder if they have a good reason for it.

In this case though, it seems like a good idea. Get all the high school and college done with, that way you'll be out of law school early and you won't have the same problem many professional women have today, finding themselves 35-40 years old before they're ready to have kids, and then realizing it's too late.

I finished high school early, then took 5 years in college. It was nice to take the time to take some extra classes I might not have gotten to (I took a lot of russian classes with absolutely no point other than I was interested in it!).

But if you already know what you want to do, go for it.

But, maybe those of us from families where people tend to finish early understand better. ;) (My sister and I both finished college when we were 16, my grandfather when he was 14. He went on to college and graduated when he was 18. Everyone in my family who took the normal amount of time through high school was too fed up to finish college to. Didn't stop one of them from being a CIO, though.)

Do what works.