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Published on September 23rd, 2006 | by Alex and Brett Harris

David Banh: College Phenomenon

David Banh: College Phenomenon

18-year-old David Banh saved himself three years of college and thousands of dollars in student-loan debt by taking on a grueling course load over two semesters and becoming the first student in school history to complete the University of Virginia’s four-year bachelor’s program in a single year. [HT: Boundless Line]

The “I’m Not A Genius” Syndrome

According to the Washington Post, almost two-thirds of freshmen students at four-year colleges in Virginia take six years to graduate. But just a year and a summer after graduating from high school, David Banh has a double major in math and physics. Now he’s starting graduate studies on a research grant, hoping to finish his master’s degree by the end of the academic year.


At this point it would be oh-so-easy for all of us normal people to place David in the “so-smart-its-disgusting” category and move on. But his accomplishment represents far more than an above-average IQ. It represents hours and hours (and hours) of hard and disciplined work that started long before he stepped foot on campus.

Once we label someone as a “genius” we usually cease feel the need to learn from them or to be challenged by their example. I call it the “I’m Not A Genius” syndrome. It’s dangerous. There is much we can learn from people like David Banh, and not just academically. We should all be challenged by their example.

In the wise words of Thomas Edison: “Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration.”

David’s “Do Hard Things” Mentality

David seems to have adopted Mr. Edison’s famous adage while still in high school, taking as many advanced placement exams as he could and amassing an incredible 72 credits. He wisely used the teen years as they were intended, as a training ground and launching pad for the rest of his life. With that hard work done, David was halfway to his bachelor’s degree before the start of his first college semester.

At that point he could have breezed through a normal college course load and still finished two years early. But he didn’t. Instead he chose to continue the approach he took in high school: Hard work. But after signing up for 23 credit hours the first semester—most students take around 15—he found himself still with more free time than he had in high school.

Knowing that he would have to take out student loans if he continued a second year, David decided it made a lot more sense to just finish in a single year. An unheard of 37-credit second semester completed his mathematics major, with a final summer class getting him the three additional credits he needed for a double major in physics. He graduated last month.

“From the very beginning, I was amazed,” David’s mathematics professor, Irena Lasiecka, told the Daily Progress. “He was definitely the best student in the class, and also the most mature even though he was younger.”

Why We Do Hard Things

From what I can gather from the articles available, David is not a Christian. Yet we can still commend his work ethic. The way he continually pushed himself in high school and college to “do hard things” is an excellent example to rebelutionaries.

With his brains and talent, David could have easily coasted through high school and college. Instead he diligently applied himself to a season of intense study; even when it kept him from other enjoyable activities; even when his friends thought he was slightly insane. What was his motivation? Saving time and money.

This is how rebelutionaries differ from the David Banhs’ and Michael Sessions’ of the world and why I pray they will be far less rare. As Christians, as rebelutionaries, we have far better reasons to do hard things. Here are three of them:

      1.) A higher purpose: To glorify our Creator. It’s not about us.

      2.) A greater strength: The work of the Holy Spirit. Not our own strength.

      3.) A sweeter joy: Knowing Christ as Savior. Saved by grace alone.

Friends, these are priceless biblical truths. Stories like David’s turn our society’s expectations of teenagers upside down. They demonstrates how capable young people can be if they apply themselves. They prove the power of a young man dedicated to a dream. But friends, as Christians we have a calling that is higher than any earthly dream and a power beyond any human strength.

Let us then continue to earnestly challenge one another to “do hard things” for the glory of God, developing and using our gifts to their full potential wherever God has called us, never content to give up, coast, or “just get by.” And let us be willing to sacrifice anything that would distract us from that calling (Hebrews 12:1).

This is a call to the sold-out Christian life, what G.K. Chesteron calls the “Christian ideal.” This quote by him is one of our favorites: “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried.”

Oh, Lord—for your glory and by your grace—may we be a generation of Christians who find it difficult and yet still try.

About the Author

are the co-founders of and co-authors of Do Hard Things and Start Here. They have a passion for God and for their generation. Their personal interests include politics, filmmaking, music, and basketball. They are both graduates of Patrick Henry College in Purcellville, Virginia.

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