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Other Testing out of college and earning a PhD

  1. Mar 7, 2015 #1
    Hello I'm currently in high school but I am teaching myself ALOT of math and physics. I'm planning to go to Princeton, MIT, or Stanford. Im curious, since I will already know all of it, if I will be able to acquire a Bachelors degree in physics in one or two years by testing out. If I do this, I will then go to graduate school in Cosmology.
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  3. Mar 7, 2015 #2


    Staff: Mentor

    Testing out classes doesn't necessarily mean you will gain credit for them. You will still need 120 credit hours to graduate with a BS.

    Some time ago when I was an undergrad, a fellow student tested out of highschool at 11th grade, tested out of college and went on to graduate school. It was a very risky route as he now had to receive a PhD or maybe MS to complete his education without it he would be nowhere.

    Later, I found out he became an author of science books although I never found out if he got that graduate level degree.

    In my own experience, I tested out of some math courses and regretted it later on. I was bored and felt it was cool to do. The long term problem was the course difficulty increases and your grades drop and the end result is your GPA is lower than the one who didn't take this route even though you'd taken tougher level courses so just be aware of that side effect. When you apply for jobs, it may come up as HR or the hiring manager looks superficially at the GPA as you know,they will and not the courses you took.

    My advice is to not test out. Enjoy the college life, gain friends, help some students and plan your future.
  4. Mar 8, 2015 #3

    Vanadium 50

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    There is no point in rushing through school, and it may well be detrimental to your education.

    You've posted a few messages here bragging about how smart you are. It's off-putting. There is no reason you need to know now what Princeton, MIT, or Stanford will do then. You should be focusing on high school and not ten years down the road.
  5. Mar 8, 2015 #4


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    This will come off as very blunt, but I can guarantee you that you don't know nearly as much as you think you do. You may also not be nearly as smart as you think you are. It is incredibly arrogant to think you know already everything you could learn from undergrad at MIT or a similar school (Ivy league, Chicago, Stanford, etc). I'm currently a theory PhD student at a school with the same reputation as the ones you mention. I also chose between this school and Stanford. There are several students in my class who did their undergrad at MIT and they are all absolutely brilliant. The students at top grad programs were at the top of there undergrad program, that includes places like the ones you mentioned. These are the students you are competing with.

    Most of the students in my class took several grad courses in undergrad, so even if you found the undergrad courses "too easy for you" (which I highly doubt) you can take all kinds of grad courses, even GR and QFT. A lot of the students at MIT started taking grad classes as early as sophomore or junior year. As an MIT student, you also have access to Harvard classes, so a lot of MIT students take QFT over there. Works the same for Harvard students.

    Even if you test out of high school and go straight to a PhD, you most likely won't even be close to competitive for the places you mention because of your lack of research experience. You also won't have letters from well known people. These two factors are the most important component of a grad school application. These things are what make you stand out. I have friends at my program who have more than one publication from undergrad. I myself had a first author PRL and am currently finishing another first author paper from undergrad.

    So my suggestion would be to gain some humility and see how everything turns out. Just try to get the most out of undergrad and go from there.

    And one last thing, don't plan to go to one of those schools since you are in no way guaranteed to get in. I know brilliant students who were rejected by all of those schools, yet worked hard and got into all of them for grad school. It wasn't that they weren't smart enough to get in for undergrad, they very well could have been one of the most accomplished students there. It's just that admissions to these schools at the undergrad level are a complete crapshoot and there are a lot of other factors involved not related to your potential as a student.
  6. Mar 9, 2015 #5
    It is not impossible to get a Ph.D. without a bachelor's first, but it is vanishingly unlikely. I can think of two cases... Jane Goodall, and a sex researcher whose name escapes me but his obit said he dropped out of high school to go to college and dropped out of college to go to grad school and ultimately became a successful professor.

    In any event, not really a path you can count on.

    Secondly, what are you doing in high school besides studying? I hate to break it to you, but if you have a straight A average and perfect SAT scores and that's all, you have *zero* chance of getting into Princeton, MIT, or Stanford. So forget about testing out, you might not even get in.
  7. Mar 9, 2015 #6
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