Student weighs value of fast-track Ph.D. plan
June 8, 2012 5:30PM
Updated: July 11, 2012 6:09AM
Dr. Wallace: I’m considered to be a “bright student.” I’m in the 11th grade, and I plan to attend a college or university in the fall of 2013. I’ve read that several colleges and universities will permit selected students to graduate in three years instead of four. This takes place when the student takes an additional class or two each of the six semesters of undergraduate work. I’m really interested in this type of program because I want to earn my Ph.D. as fast as I can so I can become a college teacher in the field of biology.
My counselor isn’t in favor of this three-year degree program because she thinks it places too much pressure on the student. Actually, I thrive on pressure, the more the better. I see that you hold a doctorate, so you should be able to give me some guidance on my early college graduation plan. How much time did it take for you to earn your various degrees?
Todd, Springfield, Mass.
Todd: The majority of three-year undergraduate degree candidates choose this plan because it saves a year of tuition and additional fees. It appears that you would be a viable candidate for such a program, especially since you thrive under pressure. But unless funding is a concern for the fourth year, I would encourage you to opt for the traditional four-year program. This will allow you to participate in the full range of social and cultural activities as well as the academic experiences that a college or university life presents.
I earned my undergraduate degree in a standard four-year program. I finished a standard master’s degree program in one full year and a summer session. The doctorate in educational philosophy took parts of four years to obtain. The doctorate was earned while I was a high school principal. Classes were taken during the evenings, on weekends and during summer vacations. Doctoral candidates who can work on their degree full time can complete necessary classwork and finish the doctoral dissertation in a year and a half.
Dr. Wallace: I’d like to share my experience with the young lady who was thinking of having a strawberry birthmark on her cheek removed by laser surgery. You gave her good advice by telling her to have the surgery.
I, too, was born with the same type of birthmark on my face and neck. Last year, I checked into laser surgery and was confident it would remove the birthmark and was thrilled to know that the process was painless and would be completed in four 15-minute treatments. The treatments happen every six weeks.
The surgery has been completed, and for the first time in my life, I can wear my hair in a ponytail. The first time I looked into the mirror and did not see my birthmarks, was the happiest day of my life!
Danielle: Thanks for sharing your experience with our teen readers. Teens always enjoy hearing from readers who have overcome various obstacles.
Write to Dr. Wallace at