When Jimmy Chilimigras broke the world record as the youngest person to pass the Certified Public Accounting (CPA) exam at 15 years old, he credited hard work, resilience, and the support he received from his alma mater, Western Governors University (WGU).
WGU’s self-paced, competency-based approach to education allowed Jimmy to reach his dreams in record time.
It took Jimmy just over one year to earn his bachelor’s degree in accounting, and only another six months to complete WGU’s accounting master’s program.
After that, he passed one of the most difficult professional exams – the CPA exam – a test so challenging that even ChatGPT failed the first time.
Nurturing Intellectual Passion
By age 12, Jimmy had scored a 31 on the ACT and had enough college credit hours to start college once he graduated from high school in Mississippi. His parents weren’t surprised – Jimmy had always been more interested in reading and learning than most other kids his age. Jimmy’s passion for learning started when he was very young.
“He’s always been different from most kids. He’s very self-disciplined and responsible. When he was six years old, he had a cavity. After learning that sugar was the cause, he eliminated refined sugar from his diet completely,” his dad, John Chilimigras, said.
Personalized Learning and Guided Growth
WGU’s affordable tuition, accreditation status, self-paced programs, online access, massive accounting alumni network and mentorship program piqued Jimmy’s interest in pursuing higher education at the institution.
“Things like being able to learn at my own pace and having the ability to customize my education really attracted me to WGU,” said Jimmy. The WGU system allows students to learn in a way that works best for them. Faster learners can progress more quickly, and students can demonstrate understanding and retention by passing professional exams. WGU provides a more personalized, cost-effective education that takes less time to complete.”
As with all incoming students, WGU paired Jimmy with a mentor, Ron Cimo, who played a critical role in his completion of WGU’s accounting programs.
Mentors work one-on-one with students to help develop a strategic plan suited for their specific needs and usually communicate with students as often as once a week to ensure they have the resources and guidance necessary to graduate and find a job in their chosen field. In 2022, WGU mentors conducted 3 million calls with students.
“It’s important to establish a real relationship with mentees to get to know them and understand their goals,” said Cimo, Jimmy’s WGU program mentor.
Jimmy’s mentor couldn’t have been a more perfect fit given Cimo’s master’s in business administration, CPA license and more than 25 years in higher education.
"Jimmy loves learning for the sake of learning. I was not surprised at all when I learned that he passed the CPA exam,” Cimo said. “The CPA exam is one of the most difficult professional business exams, but he’s very disciplined and he works hard, so I knew he would be successful.”
Though Jimmy has officially completed his time at WGU, the mentor bond holds strong. He and Cimo continue to communicate regularly.
“Jimmy called me up to let me know he’s been assigned two new mentors at his new school, but he says I’m still his favorite,” quipped Cimo.
Laser-Focused on a Legal Future
Jimmy is now laser-focused on starting law school this fall. At the age of 14, he passed the LSAT with the highest score in 23 states.
“I wanted to go to law school because I want to help people. People can have physical issues where they’d need a doctor or a physician, but they can also have financial or social issues, where they’d need an accountant or a lawyer,” he said. “Certain social and financial issues can really be just as life-altering and meaningful.”
Now that Jimmy has broken world records with his educational pursuits, he looks forward to enjoying in-person courses at Loyola University Law School. Still, Jimmy will always cherish the WGU foundation that propelled him to excellence.
“Being able to complete programs at my own pace and with the guidance of a mentor who cared about me as an individual made my WGU experience unforgettable,” he said. “WGU provided the tools and resources I needed to be successful. It’s how I got into law school, which is extremely competitive.”
Jimmy will build on his WGU accounting education with a tax specialization by pursuing tax law at Loyola University Law School through a merit-based full-tuition scholarship.
A Well-Rounded Approach to Self-Paced Education
Jimmy’s advice for students interested in pursuing a self-paced and customizable education at WGU isn’t limited to any age group or stage of life:
“It’s really important to stay focused on your goals and to keep putting in the time and to be dedicated, but I also think it’s important to maintain a good work-life balance,” he said. “Don’t burn yourself out. Take time to spend time doing things you enjoy with your friends and family – sometimes you absorb the material faster by taking time away from it.”
In his free time, Jimmy enjoys being near the water and spending time with his family and friends.
"We live on the Gulf Coast, so we're right on the beach and that's fantastic. I like to do everything out on the water,” he said.
As Jimmy’s story continues to unfold, it serves as a beacon of inspiration for aspiring learners worldwide, reminding students that the road to success is paved with resilience and a willingness to go beyond the conventional. WGU students’ achievements not only reflect the quality education and support offered by WGU but also highlights the potential that lies within every individual.