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Ivy League school welcomes 15-year-old

Brittney Exline, 15, of Colorado Springs, Colo., excels at math and science and is interested in politics.
Brittney Exline, 15, of Colorado Springs, Colo., excels at math and science and is interested in politics.George Widman / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

Brittney Exline is too young to vote, drive a car or go to an R-rated movie, but at the age of just 15 she is beginning her Ivy League career Wednesday when classes start at the University of Pennsylvania.

She said she doesn’t really notice the age gap between herself and her 17- and 18-year-old peers — and neither do they.

“I didn’t tell people right off the bat that I was 15,” Exline said. “A lot of people were pretty surprised.”

Exline grew up in Colorado Springs, Colo., where at 8 years she was already in sixth grade. By 13 she had finished high school math. She turned 15 in February and graduated a few months later.

She’s not preoccupied with how unique her accomplishments are.

“I wouldn’t even really realize that if people didn’t tell me,” she said.

She excels at math and science and is really interested in politics, so she enrolled in a Penn program that will award her degrees from both the engineering and liberal arts schools when she graduates in 2011.

Talents go beyond academics
But her resume also includes years of dancing and singing and a couple of teen pageant titles.

“Her motivation, discipline and maturity provided clear evidence that, despite her age, she was ready to travel halfway across the country and thrive in Penn’s rigorous academic environment,” Eric Kaplan, interim dean of admissions, said in a statement.

There have been much younger college students: Jessica Meeker enrolled at Penn State two months before her 13th birthday, graduating in 2004 at age 16.

Exline’s mother, Chyrese, a geriatric supervisor, said her concerns about her daughter’s freshman year are probably no different from any other parent’s.

“We did our best to prepare her,” Chyrese Exline said.

Exline has already been on the Philadelphia campus for about a month, participating in a pre-freshman acclimation program. Program counselor Noemi Maldonado described her as “extremely outgoing, very social, very friendly, very mature for her age.”

Miguel Gonzalez, another program participant, said Exline revealed her age when a group of incoming freshmen were hanging out late one night.

“She’s really cool for a 15-year-old,” said Gonzalez, who turns 18 later this month. “We were surprised, but I don’t think it’s too shocking.”