North Texas

UNT Student to Earn Doctorate Degree at Age 19

At the age of 19, many college students are still trying to figure out what they want to do with their education. One University of North Texas student already has that figured out. Next week, she will receive her doctorate in educational psychology -- the youngest ever at UNT to reach that goal.

The day every college student anticipates is fast approaching. For Noel Jett, that day is coming sooner than it does for most students.

"Walking across the stage is actually the easiest part," Jett said. "It feels a little anticlimactic because the most defining parts of my degree are not as dignified."

Jett describes those things which many college students experience -- crying in an advisor's office, staying up late, studying. In many ways Noel is the typical college student.

In other ways, she's anything but.

"I've always had a desire to learn," she said.

At 19, Jett is about to become the youngest in UNT history -- and possibly the U.S. -- to earn a doctorate in educational psychology.

"From an intellectual perspective she was definitely more advanced than other kids her age," said Anne Rinn, professor of educational psychology at UNT, who is Jett's advisor and also serves as director of the Office for Giftedness, Talent Development and Creativity. "So from that perspective she met an intellectual peer group here, which was cool. They were just twenty years older than she was."

Her mom started to notice at age three, that Noel was different. She would ask why other kids her age were doing things, and the questions were deep.

"I always thought she seemed very attuned to things and very bright," said Jett's mother Nancy Shastid. "But I had no point of reference because she was my only child."

Shastid said Jett was tested by doctors, who told her the best course of action was to remove her from public schools.

"It typically happens around age 4 or 5," Rinn said. "Parents start to realize their kids aren't quite like everybody else."

After just weeks of kindergarten, Jett was home schooled. She entered Tarrant County Community College at age 13. Then, she enrolled at Texas A&M, earning her bachelor's degree at 16. Now, she is entering her final days at UNT, where she picked up her cap and gown Monday.

Jett appears quite comfortable with the fact that she's always been ahead of the curve. Still, people seem fascinated by it all.

"I think everybody has something they get a lot of questions about or those comments that are a little uncomfortable," she said. "And you have to decide how you're going to handle it."

Jett plans to become a therapist, working with the gifted. She said many people have misconceptions about young people like her who take part in accelerated education programs. She has an obvious talent, but school has also been hard work. One week from Friday, it will all pay off.

"I feel like I've earned my degree with blood, sweat and tears, not by walking across the stage," she said. "But that's the fun part."

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