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Student started college at 12, now has Ph.D at 23

Nadine Nepper kept busy this holiday season, making sure everything in the house was perfect for her daughter's return from college. Julia Nepper is 23 years old and just earned a Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin. 

"I'm so proud of her," Nepper said. "All that hard work has paid off. It's hard to believe she was kept back in kindergarten that one year."

Nadine and her ex-husband knew their daughter was gifted at an early age. 

“We didn’t think she was being challenged enough,” said Nepper who was remembering a time when the family lived in Burgaw.  “It was suggested if we wanted her to excel, we’d have to pull her out and homeschool her.”

That’s what the Neppers did for four years, and their hard work paid off.

“I was a know it all when I was a kid and I still am, but I tone it down a bit,” Julia said. “It came easy for me.”

Julia was just 12 years old when she began her higher education at Cape Fear Community College.

She went on to get her associates degree at 14, her bachelor's degree from UNCW at 16 and now her Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin at 23. 

“Most of the people I’ve met, in my life, could have done what I did if they had the right support,” Julia said. “I don’t fault my parents, pushing me, with regards to my education. Clearly, I could handle it and it worked. So they must have done something right.”

What’s next is the big mystery of every student who’s looking at school in the rearview mirror. Julia’s mom would love her to return to Wilmington., but the ambitious 23-year-old has other ideas - which include maybe trying to land a job in Japan.   

This is the first time in more than half of her life that Julia no longer has homework. It's also the first time she's a little nervous about what the future holds.

“I’ve been in college most of my life and I haven’t really been in the real world,” Julia said.  “It’s exciting but actually scary to go out and get a job.”


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