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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Q&A: 19-year-old Ph.D. grad speaks about academic journey, future job

Noel+Jett%2C+Class+of+2015%2C+graduated+from+A%26amp%3BM+at+16+before+earning+her+Ph.D.+from+UNT+at+19+years+old.
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Noel Jett, Class of 2015, graduated from A&M at 16 before earning her Ph.D. from UNT at 19 years old.

Noel Jett, Class of 2015, received her doctorate from the University of North Texas in December. At 19 years old, she is the school’s youngest Ph.D. graduate.
When she was 16, Jett left Aggieland with a bachelor’s degree in psychology before she went to UNT to study educational psychology. News writer Katie James spoke with Jett about her experience.
1. How does it feel to be the youngest person to get their Ph.D. from UNT and all the attention that comes with it?
How something feels is subjective and complicated, I don’t really have any other feeling to compare it to. How does it feel to be a woman if you’ve never been a man? How does it feel to be from America if you’ve never lived anywhere else? How does it feel to get a Ph.D. at any age? So, it’s not easy to answer, but the basic answer is it feels great to be Dr. Jett. I’m glad to be done and start the next chapter of my life. As for being the youngest Ph.D. grad from UNT, that was never my goal. It’s fun to break a record, but it’s not important to me. Same goes for all the subsequent attention: I’m happy to raise awareness, but it was never a goal of mine to have articles about me. I just hope the articles can help people understand how and why one would go to college so early, especially those who are considering doing it themselves.
2. What made you decide to pursue your Ph.D?
It’s something I needed for my career plan. It was a great experience, I learned so much, and I’m really happy I was able to complete it on my ideal schedule.
3. What made you choose A&M for your undergraduate degree?
Out of the four schools I applied to, A&M was the best school at the best price. Plus, when I told advisors about my age at various different schools, some were negative, some were neutral, but only A&M advisers and staff were excited. They thought it was cool and interesting, rather than accusing me of being an attention-seeker or living under a rock or something. I had also been on A&M’s campus many times before to attend the Physics and Engineering Festival, so the campus wasn’t intimidating. Didn’t stop me from getting lost my first day, though.
4. Why did you decide to major in psychology?
Going to college so young, my mom said I needed to major in something I was already really familiar with. So she said I was only allowed to major in math or psychology as those were my best subjects. I was always free to stay back in community if I wanted to be more adventurous, but I was ready to move on to college. I chose psychology because it’s what I’m more passionate about.
5. What’s next for you? What career or other goals do you have?
I’m starting a master’s program in clinical mental health counseling so that I can become a therapist. It’s crazy to go back to school after all this, and it’s a bit unorthodox to get your Ph.D. before your master’s, but it’s undoubtedly the best path for me. My goal was always to become a therapist who focuses on gifted people and their families. Growing up, I had unique issues that traditional child psychology often didn’t address, especially when I was a teenager in college. Of course, it was worth it, but since what I was going through was so rare and poorly understood, I was basically flying blind. I would love to be someone else’s resource so they can do something like what I did, but with a bit more guidance.
6. What challenges came from attending college at such a young age?
I feel like I didn’t have that many challenges in college. At least my memories are mostly positive. Even so, it would be hard to determine which challenges I faced came from being younger and which were just challenges anyone else would go through.
Obviously, I didn’t have a traditional college experience at that age but, that was never important to me. The majority of the “college experience” people talk about seems to just be stuff you do in your early 20s that you can do just as well outside of college. I still had a pretty great college experience, just a different one.
7. What benefits come from being done with school so early?
Career-wise, there’s no comparison, it’s an amazing opportunity. When it comes to my goal to be a therapist, it’s an unparalleled advantage. I can be licensed within the next few years, and since I’m hoping to work with a lot of younger people, I think youth is a great way to relate to and understand my future clients. I’ve already found my age to be an advantage as a teacher. I’m an instructor at an online alternative school for gifted/advanced students, and I have been able to relate to them more than others. It has been deeply enjoyable for me and them. There’s also a monetary advantage to doing school quickly. The less time I’m accruing debt, the happier I am. Not to mention the monetary advantage to starting a career sooner: that’s more time I’m accruing interest on my savings and investments, which is how I pay off my debt.
8. What’s your fondest memory from your time at A&M?
Oh, I couldn’t pick one, there were so many great moments. Late night study groups, events with Cepheid Variable like AggieCon and working the concession stands at games, working and hanging out with my Aggie Research Scholars team, running a research lab, doing my first interview ever with Leslie Henton, failing my first exam… okay the last one was terrible at the time, but is really funny to me in retrospect and was a learning moment for sure. I have some other great memories from the time I was at A&M not specific to being in school (see how that “college experience” encompasses things you can do at any time?) Like road tripping to New Orleans for a music festival and being on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire Whiz Kids specialty week. Also, I really enjoyed writing for The Mugdown. Our meetings were always hysterical.
9. What kinds of things were you involved in at A&M?
I already mentioned Cepheid Variable, but I was also in Spanish Club (for people of all backgrounds to speak to each other in Spanish, rather than a club for Spaniards — thought I should clarify), and when I was about to graduate and attending my last session with them, they got me a cookie cake, so that was really sweet (literally and figuratively). I was an Aggie Research Scholar, meaning I managed a research project with other undergrads as my team that I hired, which was a ton of fun and great experience. I conducted research that was published, and that was awesome too.
10. Who has been your biggest inspiration or role model?
A big part of this journey was the fact that I didn’t really have anyone to be my role model in terms of my academic path. I hope to be that person for other people, and some have already reached out to me and told me I helped them in that regard, which is very humbling and gratifying. I did have some great inspirations in general for the kind of person I want to be, which has always been my mom. I’ve also had a great role model in my childhood math tutor and lifelong friend, Dr. Alicia Prieto-Langarica — she was my Plus One on Millionaire too.

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