Howard University graduate earns degree at 18, enters Ph.D. program

Photo via Twitter (@ebuntohdun_)

By Will Fuller, Executive Managing Editor 

While most 18 year olds are graduating high school and forethinking collegiate life, Nkechinyere Chidi-Ogbolu experienced that journey four years ago – at age 14. She graduated magna cum laude from Howard University May 13 with a Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering. Her next step: a Ph.D.

“I feel good, proud and thankful, and I’m so excited for the next step,” Chidi-Ogbolu said.

A native of Nigeria, Chidi-Ogbolu, 18, attended a primary school in Nigeria from first-fourth grade and was promoted to the sixth grade. She went to school in a seventh-11th grade British education system, allowing her to graduate high school early.

“Typically students graduate high school in Nigeria at age 16,” she said. “I graduated high school and entered Howard at age 14.”

She posted on her Twitter account that she graduated at only age 18 and received significant media attention for her accomplishment.

“I didn’t think graduating at 18 was a big deal,” the 18-year-old graduate said. “But, when everyone else said they were proud of me, I felt emotional to get recognition from so many people.”

Set to earn her doctoral degree at University of California – Davis, she will be studying biomedical engineering in the fall. She believes the school’s doctoral program will be more beneficial for her career, considering its research-based curriculum.

“I participated in an internship in Davis, California and applied to other schools in California, but I met professors and friends while interning there, so attending UC – Davis is much easier.”

Chidi-Ogbolu plans to study biomedical engineering because she plans to work in medical research, and she is eager to study the behind-the-scenes functions of the healthcare industry. She believes the program will help her gain research experience to study health epidemics to alleviate illnesses in Nigeria.

“I want to help fix illnesses like Ebola and other diseases – major or minor,” she said. “I want to help people in Nigeria.”

Although she was much younger than other Howard students, she doesn’t believe her academic experience was any different compared to her college peers. The graduate attributes her success to hard work and dedication.

“I never felt learning was age related. If you were taught the material and you’re serious about learning, you’ll be fine – regardless of your age,” she said. “I didn’t find courses any more difficult than the typical college student.”

Chidi-Ogbolu believes her friends and family are the reason she has attained her goal and was able to easily transition as a younger college student.

“My friends made my well-being their responsibility, and I got a lot of support from my family, especially my dad who is my role model,” said Chidi-Ogbolu, noting that her father inspired her to pursue chemical engineering at Howard. “If it wasn’t for them, I don’t know where I would’ve been,” she said.