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“Dean Callahan will be walking on campus with someone and then he’ll stop and say, ‘Ooh, Kimberly Koerth. Stop right there! May I brag about you to my friend here?’ I usually shrug my shoulders and reply, ‘Sure, how can I say no?’”
The high-achieving Koerth certainly has a lot to brag about. She skipped a grade in elementary school and started taking classes at Central Arizona College in Coolidge, Ariz., at age 12; four years later she graduated from Casa Verde High School in Casa Grande, Ariz., and collected an associate of arts degree at age 15 – maintaining a 4.0 GPA at both institutions.
“Most people are of the belief that fun or a social life must be sacrificed in order to succeed in academics,” Koerth said. “And to that I say books and academics are fun, too.”
The National Merit Scholar received international attention when she obtained her high school diploma and associate of arts degree at the same time, which prompted feature stories in The Huffington Post, The Daily Mail, ABC15.com and Good Morning America.
Koerth applied to Columbia University in New York and the University of Arizona in Tucson, but ultimately chose ASU because of the Cronkite School’s national reputation and strong programming at Barrett, the Honors College. She was admitted in 2012 to ASU’s Barrett, the Honors College and the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, where she is on track to receive three degrees. Koerth will graduate in 2016 with bachelor’s degrees in journalism and English, and a master’s degree in mass communication.
The 17-year-old says she particularly enjoys ASU’s Downtown Phoenix campus for its intimacy, urban flavor and academic opportunities.
“The entire college experience has been wonderful in terms of extracurricular activities and rooting for all the sports teams, but there’s still a strong emphasis on academics and research opportunities,” Koerth said. “I’ve made friends, too. Let’s just say I’m not lonely.”
In addition to taking 20 credit hours in the summer and 18 credit hours this semester, Koerth is making sure to carve out time for extracurricular activities that round her out as a human being. Koerth serves as the chief copy editor for the Downtown Devil, an online publication run by ASU students. She is also an intern for the Cronkite Journal, a secretary for Phoenexus – a Downtown Phoenix collaborative devoted to creative writing – and an assistant community director for BLAST’D, a Barrett Honors community service group. In her spare time she participates in poetry slams around downtown, partakes in First Fridays in Phoenix and usually attends concerts with her dad on weekends. Koerth insists sleep factors in somewhere, but it’s not high on the priority list.
“I definitely want to experience everything the university has to offer and I’m doing it at a faster pace than most,” Koerth said. “I wouldn’t say there’s a sense of urgency because I’m doing what I like to do.”
Koerth envisions her professional life in three acts: as a reporter, copy editor and a teacher.
“Copy editing is what I really love to do because I’m a perfectionist,” Koerth said. “I’ll even critique some of my friends' emails and say to myself, ‘That comma is in the wrong place and this word doesn’t mean what you think it does.’ I want to be the person in the newsroom who sees those things and fixes them.”
Ultimately, the young scholar sees herself in a college or university setting. But that means obtaining a fourth degree, which Koerth will commence upon graduation. She plans to enroll in the Teach for America program in 2016 to get her master's in English or literature.
“That degree would enable me to teach at a university or community college in a few years,” Koerth said. “That may or may not change but I’m confident I’ll have many choices when I’m ready to start my career.”