David Culver

A Master's in Math at 17: Student Gets Grad Degree Before High School Graduation

"Don't give up -- always look at the end goal," Stephanie Mui says to other students.

It started with flash cards.

Stephanie Mui, 17, remembers practicing on the cards with her dad. "He taught me addition, multiplication, subtraction," she said.

That was in preschool. By first grade, she had moved on to algebra.

By second, geometry.

On Saturday, the Virginia teen will receive her Master of Science degree in mathematics from George Mason University. Next stop is New York University, where she will pursue a PhD. 

Perhaps most remarkable? She's done it all while simultaneously attending high school. She will graduate from Oakton High School next month.

Mui started taking college courses at Northern Virginia Community College after fifth grade. By age 13 she earned her Associates degree. Last summer, she earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics, from George Mason, and then got started on her Master's.


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"It’s just life to me," she said. "Everybody else may see it as weird. But, you know, it’s just life."

Mui said she strives to live a balanced life and keeping a close relationship with her friends from elementary school.

"I like going to movies, I like swimming, you know, just doing normal stuff," Mui said.

Her dean agrees. 

"Her incredible poise and demeanor and intellect are all balanced," said Tracy Dean, assistant dean of the George Mason University College of Science. "She’s extremely bright, knows what she wants and is really fearless.”

Mui says she doesn't see herself as a "genius" and stays humble by comparing her accomplishments to those who have done "great things." Asked what advice she has for other young people, Mui said "Don’t give up and always look at the end goal."

"Everyone makes mistakes sometimes; I’ve made a lot," Stephanie said. "So yeah, just keep going."

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