U-Va.'s One-Year Wonder
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
And you thought your kid was smart.
David Banh, an 18-year-old from Annandale, just graduated from the University of Virginia in one year. With a double major.
His college education, almost entirely covered by a patchwork of scholarships, cost him about $200. And he sold back textbooks for more than that. Now he's starting graduate study at U-Va. with a research grant.
So at this point, he's technically running a profit.
He's upending two trends: Most students take longer to graduate than you might think -- about two-thirds of freshmen at four-year colleges in Virginia manage to finish within six years. And tuition gets more expensive every year.
He was helped by the fact that U-Va., as a public school, costs a lot less than most private colleges. And that the university accepted many of his Advanced Placement credits from high school; many of the most selective private schools wouldn't. As it was, he doubled up on course credits and took more physics over the summer to finish his second major.
Many professors would like students to explore and experiment in college rather than cram in as much as possible at top speed.
Still, "I've never seen anything like that before," said Donald Ramirez, professor and associate chairman of mathematics at U-Va.
"He's one of a kind," said Vicki Doff, his counselor at the competitive magnet Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Fairfax County. "Absolutely amazing kid academically, incredibly persistent, bright, focused and determined. His academic record was second to none. I've been here over 20 years, and I've never had a student take the course load he did in his years here."
She used to worry he was doing too much. "And he usually proved me wrong."
Banh was born and grew up in Fairfax, the eldest son of parents who came to the United States from Vietnam in the 1980s.
Even in elementary school, he was trying to get ahead. His bus driver in kindergarten told his mom that the boy would do problems or talk about lessons on the bus with the other children, Kim Banh said. In second grade, he told her he was bored and wanted harder math problems.