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Paying for College

College in Four Years? What Took You So Long?

David Banh, 19, earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Virginia in one year.

How did you manage to graduate in just 12 months?
At the science-and-technology magnet high school I attended in Annandale, Va., I took many advanced-placement courses. The University of Virginia gave me 60 credits for those classes. I needed 63 more to graduate with a double major in math and physics. I took 18 classes in two semesters, plus one class in the summer.


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Was it hard to persuade the school to cooperate?
I spoke about my early-graduation plans with an academic dean at UVa as soon as I was accepted. I wouldn't have been able to do it without having the dean on my side.

How much did your degree cost?
I spent only about $1,000 during my year of college, if I count the PC I bought and some other expenses.

How did you manage that?
My family was short on money, so I applied for about 30 scholarships during my senior year in high school. UVa didn't award me any academic or financial aid, but I won roughly $14,000 in scholarship money, which covered a year's tuition and room and board.


What's your advice for finding scholarships?
I used databases in the guidance counselor's office at my high school. If your high school doesn't have a good database, try another school. And if you find scholarships that may not seem perfectly suited to your qualifications, apply anyway.

Did you cram in some fun during your compressed college tenure?
I made friends with some of my dormmates. I hung out with them and played a lot of video games, like WarCraft III and Super Smash Bros. Melee.

What are you doing now?
My 3.6 grade point average as an undergrad enabled me to enter UVa's master's program in mathematics. My tuition and room and board are fully paid for by a grant. Eventually, I aim to get either a PhD in mathematics or a J.D. and work as a patent attorney.

-- Interview by Sean O'Neill