15-year-old graduates from UC Irvine, eyes medical school – Orange County Register
When Kylie Munson first started college, her mom would walk her to the classrooms at Los Angeles Mission College, then wait, patiently, outside on a bench until she finished.
She was 11 at the time, taking classes with peers much older – ones who could at least drive themselves to school.
Munson, now 15, walked the stage at UC Irvine last week, clad in cap and gown to collect her undergraduate diploma. The Santa Clarita native studied biological sciences, and sees more education in her future, hoping to attend medical school next year.
“It’s kind of mind blowing,” Munson’s mom, Rachel, said of her teen daughter graduating college. “She is the most humble, gracious, driven person I think I’ve ever encountered. And she just takes everything just so easy, like there’s no stress. She just kind of does it.”
Munson began her education at a private school, and was homeschooled for a year while she took an assortment of tests at the community college to determine whether she could move up to more difficult courses, Rachel Munson said. Munson passed “with flying colors,” her mom said, and began a program to graduate with her high school diploma and associate’s degree in two years.
As a young kid, Munson always seemed to have an affinity for all things science. Rachel Munson remembers taking her daughter to the library and, instead of heading to the kids’ section, Munson would veer toward the medical magazines, seemingly fascinated by the covers depicting DNA strands or bugs.
Munson said she remembers being in elementary school when she realized her love for the field.
“I’ve always been drawn toward science, like I remember being in like, maybe fifth grade and being like, ‘Oh, I love this. This is kind of what I want to go into,’” she said.
The teen said she plans to take a year off from classes to study for the MCAT and apply for medical school, where she hopes to study inherited diseases.
Scholarships and grants helped Munson attend UCI – she transferred in 2019 as a junior – paying for “virtually everything,” her mom said, including an on-campus apartment. She was awarded the university’s top Regents’ Scholarship, UCI’s Stanley Behrens Scholarship and The Rose Hills Foundation scholarship. Fabian Firoozi, Munson’s counselor at the school whose department on campus manages scholarships, said her application stood out from the rest early on.
At first, he worried how someone her age would adjust to a university environment, but those fears were vanquished after their first meeting, he said.
“Academically, she’s so motivated and she’s so organized in terms of managing her own expectations that I thought, just because of that, other students in the college are going to respect her.”
Though much younger than her classmates, Munson said she wasn’t intimidated by her college peers. She made friends, and only mentioned her age to those she got to know closely. When she’d eventually tell them how old she was, they were usually surprised, she said.
“Once I got to community college, it was like the same as every other student there,” Kylie said. “I was just taking the classes and pretty much learning with people.”
At UCI, she joined the Spirit Squad as a cheerleader, a sport she grew up doing and loves for the competition and teamwork. And when she’s not thinking about her future in medicine, Munson said she still likes to hang out with kids her own age.
“It’s nice to get a little bit of social interaction with people that are teenagers like me,” she said, “other than adults.”