Driven 19-year-old graduates from Texas A&M in 2.5 years
If graduation ceremonies at Texas A&M University included an award for most outgoing multi-tasker, Skyler Yancey would be a contender.
"She is extraordinarily outgoing," said music professor Peter Lieuwen. "And very organized."
And after Saturday, the 19-year-old will be a college graduate, completing her degree in just 2½ years.
"I'm the person who had a checklist," she said. "I wanted to get it done."
Yancey began taking community college classes while she was a student at Clear Creek High School; she had 36 credit hours — enough to be classified as a sophomore — by the time she entered A&M in the fall of 2008.
That's a lot, but starting college with some credit already earned has become increasingly common as more students take dual credit and advanced placement classes in high school.
Even so, Scott McDonald, director of admissions at A&M, said the credits often don't translate into early graduation.
Many students find that credits earned in high school don't count toward their degree, he said. Others change their major and need additional classes.
Students are taking so long to earn a degree that the government now tracks graduation rates based on six years, rather than four. About 86 percent of A&M students graduate within six years, but just 47 percent earn a degree in four years, according to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.
No one tracks how many do it in fewer than three, but McDonald said it is "highly unusual."
"It sounds like she knew exactly what she wanted to do," he said.
Almost from the beginning.
"I thought, the sooner I can get out of college, the sooner I can start making a difference," Yancey said. "I worked with my schedule for hours so everything would be perfect."
She will graduate with a degree in communications and a minor in music.
Her college years were compressed but hardly boring.
On dean's list
She spent a summer in Argentina, completing her foreign language requirements while she was there. She was on the dean's list and said her grade point average was 3.7, "the last time I checked."
She finished her final exams last week.
But she also found time to sing in a praise band at Brazos Fellowship in College Station.
She volunteered in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program and hung out with friends from the Philadelphia Sisters, a Christian sorority.
She taught yoga at a fitness club and tutored A&M athletes in music and communications.
"I learned a lot about what goes on with football culture," she said. "They were hilarious."
But she didn't attend any games at Kyle Field.
"I didn't have a sports pass," she said. "I watched them on TV."
'An amazing child'
Her parents knew she was driven.
"She's an amazing child," said her mother, Pennie Yancey, a teacher at Clear Creek High School. "She's always been a leader."
Even so, she said she was surprised by how quickly Skyler, the younger of two daughters, finished college.
That's been fun, and the source of a little good-natured envy from the elder Yanceys' friends.
But Skyler Yancey won't have much time to celebrate.
She expects to teach middle school while earning a master's degree in education administration.
Ultimately, she said she wants to start an after-school program to teach low-income kids about the arts.
She's engaged to be married, too.
That's a lot for someone who's not yet 20, but Yancey said age is just a number.
"I just never let age define who I was," she said. "Even though it's kind of young by the world's standards, I don't think it defines your skills."
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