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Sisters Shriya, left, and Prisha Purohit are pictured in Guerry Center at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Both sisters are following an early path to college. UTC photo by Angela Foster

Who says you have to be 18 years old to go to college?

That's so 20th century.

Three Ooltewah sisters are on track to hit the early bird trifecta: Early college. Early graduate school. Early career.

For the record, there was never a master plan for the Purohit sisters to all enter college at 15. It is just sort of working out that way.

Shriya, who turned 17 last month, is a University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Honors College junior majoring in business analytics.

Her younger sister, Prisha, who just turned 15, is set to enter UTC later this summer. She's interested in the field of cybersecurity. (You go, Prisha. Save us from that ransomware menace.)

Meanwhile, younger sister, Arya, 12, is accelerating up the same academic on-ramp and expects to hit college around 15, too.

If all this sounds like some sort of family scheme to slingshot the girls to adulthood, it's not.

"This whole [early] college experience has truly blown my mind," says Shweta Purohit, the girls' mother, who immigrated from India about two decades ago. "I couldn't be prouder."

"What we figured out is if you leave them alone, they will navigate on their own," said Vijay Purohit, the girls' dad, who works in private equity.

In addition to providing their home-school curriculum, Vijay Purohit said he and his wife made sure their daughters were exposed to good books and had plenty of enrichment opportunities such as sports and the arts. For example, the girls recently took up jujitsu, he said.

The common denominator among the sisters is home schooling. All three girls followed a guided home-school curriculum offered through an online school.

Shriya was the first to get the news that she might get a head start on her college career. The principal of her online school called her parents when she was 14 to let them know that she had almost completed her high school requirements.

"My parents were pretty shocked," Shriya recalled. "I didn't plan on graduating early."

Shriya said her family moved to Southeast Tennessee from Florida in 2019, and she began to explore her college options. She found out that she could enter UTC early and did well enough on her ACT and entrance interviews to be invited into the school's Honors College.

That was a blessing, she said.

"The support I've gotten from students and faculty [at UTC] has been insane," she said.

Most people don't know she's younger than a typical-age college student unless she tells them, Shriya said. And the only consequence of early enrollment is that she's had to mature a bit quicker, she said.

Prisha, 15, has been home-schooled since she was 7. For the last couple of years, she has been watching her older sister, Shriya, and has gained comfort from seeing her flourish in college.

"It wasn't like our parents were funneling us into the same path," Prisha said. "Because Shriya has been there and done that, it was a little bit more clear-cut for me."

Prisha said she developed an interest in cybersecurity after taking some computer coding classes during high school. But she's open-minded about what college might bring. "I'm open to changing my mind [about a major]," she said.

In the short term at least, Prisha said she'll be getting a ride to her classes this fall with her older sister, Shriya.

After all, Prisha has another whole year before she's old enough to get her driver's license.

Life Stories is published on Mondays. Contact Mark Kennedy at mkennedy@timesfreepress.com.

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