For one student, KU isn’t a four-year school

Graduating senior earning degree two years after high school

Attention, Kansas University students who are on the four-, five- or six-year plan for graduation.

Mike Wilson is making you look like a bunch of slackers.

It took Wilson just two years at KU to finish his bachelor’s degree in business administration.

He’ll walk down Campanile Hill today during KU’s commencement ceremonies. But don’t expect any wild graduation parties for him – he doesn’t turn 21 until next month.

“I’ll go out and have a Sprite to celebrate with everybody, while they drink a beer,” Wilson said.

The idea for graduating in two years first came when Wilson was a junior at Shawnee Mission South High School in Overland Park. He thought he could save his parents money down the road by getting as many courses out of the way as possible at Johnson County Community College before heading to KU.

Eventually, the two-year goal became more about proving to doubters like Scott Koenigsdorf, a friend from high school, that it could be done.

“I didn’t think he’d be able to do it,” said Koenigsdorf, who now attends Kansas State University. “I’m totally jealous. I went to his graduation party and wrote on his card, ‘Maybe you can come to my party in three years.’ It’s kind of crummy.”

KU student Mike Wilson, of Overland Park, is graduating with a degree in business administration after just two years of taking classes at KU. Wilson also earned credits from Johnson County Community College and Park University. Wilson said he has had little sleep in the past two years to attain his goal of early graduation.

Wilson entered KU in fall 2003 with 55 college hours already under his belt. Since then, he’s taken between 15 and 18 hours per semester at KU, paired with three to six hours of online courses at JCCC in Overland Park or Park University in Parkville, Mo.

He got by on five hours of sleep a night.

“At times I’ve felt overextended,” he said. “But I pulled it out in the end.”

He credited his success to mapping out his class choices early on and sticking to the plan.

With the average time to a degree creeping upward, KU has been pushing students to graduate in four years. Only 31 percent of students entering as freshmen in 2000 finished their degrees in four years.

Kathryn Tuttle, associate vice provost for student success, said students could learn a lesson from Wilson’s graduation plan. But she said she worried that pushing too hard through school might make students miss out on the college experience.

“I’d say cautious inspiration,” she said of Wilson’s story. “It sounds to me this is really an extraordinary young man.”

Wilson said he didn’t feel like he had missed out on anything by finishing in two years. He lived in Naismith Hall his first year at KU and was a residence assistant there this year until he realized he was too busy and quit. He said he made friends and went to sporting events at KU.

“I’ve enjoyed every nanosecond of my time at KU,” he said. “I wish, after two years, I would have stayed here longer. If I stayed two more years, I’d probably still feel the same way.”

Wilson someday hopes to start his own business, strike it rich and retire early. He’s already started a couple of small businesses in the last four years – one that sold car parts to fellow high school students and another that makes promotional videos.

Now, he’s headed to the University of Missouri-Kansas City to get his master’s of business administration degree.

The MBA course work usually takes two years.

Wilson says he can get it done in one.