For Freshman with 8 Degrees, Multiple Opportunities Lie Ahead
Joshua Chari handles the academic and social challenges of college life so well that he usually doesn’t stand out in his classes at The University of Texas at Dallas. In fact, classmates are often surprised to find out he’s only 17.
“They want to know, how is this possible?” said Chari, who recently finished his first semester at UT Dallas, where he is studying biomedical engineering and mechanical engineering in the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science.
It’s possible because of an accelerated educational approach his parents suggested when Chari was in middle school. Sensing their son’s academic potential, Chari’s parents asked him if he would consider skipping the eighth grade so he could begin high school classes sooner. His father, Raj, an IT database administrator, and his mother, Manjusha, a nurse practitioner, understood the value of rigorous educational opportunities.
“They always wanted me to challenge myself,” he said. “They knew it was possible for me to go beyond, to get ahead, so that I’d have time in college for research opportunities and internships.”
Chari began his high school career by testing out of some courses at the STEM Academy at Berkner High School in Richardson. That freed up more time for him to participate in the school district’s dual credit program in which qualifying students can garner credit for both high school and college at the same time.
In addition to dual-credit classes at the STEM Academy and traditional courses at Richland College, Chari took online courses through the Texas Virtual School Network, a Texas Education Agency program that offers classes that apply to high school and public college degrees.
“By senior year, I had no more high school courses to take, but I wanted to stay put because I was using the time to get college credit in classes at Richland,” said Chari, who graduated from high school at age 16.
“I will graduate without debt and I am already working while going to school. I didn’t understand my parents’ approach back then, but now I recognize that I’m set.”
He didn’t set out to earn multiple college degrees, but amassed enough credits through a combination of online, dual-credit and community college classes that he was eligible to receive eight associate degrees at Richland College.
That unique accomplishment attracted state and national attention a year ago. His story also has been told in The Dallas Morning News and on CNN and several local television stations. Last spring, the Texas House of Representatives approved a resolution commending Chari for “his exceptional scholastic ability, hard work and commitment to excellence.”
Chari soon received offers from several Ivy League schools, but he was more impressed with the biomedical engineering program at UT Dallas, where he also got a full-tuition scholarship. Besides, he still lived with his parents, and figured it would be nice to stay nearby and commute to campus.
Even though he had a head start in his academic career, Chari plans to take four years to finish earning two engineering degrees before beginning a master’s program. He hopes to one day design medical devices.
Nevertheless, Chari said having all those college credits under his belt has paid off. He has already nabbed an internship at Marlow Industries, where he works on research and development for projects that make thermoelectric materials.
Chari hopes other area students will take advantage of the same early opportunities he had.
“I will graduate without debt and I am already working while going to school. I didn’t understand my parents’ approach back then, but now I recognize that I’m set,” Chari said.
Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].