Competitive twins on the way to early college graduation


Ed Kemmick/Last Best News

Brenna (left) and Brittney Hoffman, sitting in the kitchen of their family’s home near Rocky Mountain College, talk about their amazing academic success.

Brenna Hoffman is planning to graduate this spring from Montana State University Billings with a degree in finance.

Graduation is scheduled for May 4, meaning she will be graduating from college a little less than a year since she graduated from Billings West High School.

Her twin sister, Brittney, meanwhile, still has another year and a half to go before she’ll graduate from MSUB. But please don’t assume that Brittney is a slacker. Scheduling conflicts made it impossible for her to complete enough credits toward her degree in elementary education in time to graduate with her sister.

Twins on TV, too

KTVQ is also doing a story on Brittney and Brenna Hoffman. It is scheduled to air on Q2 News on Wednesday (tonight) at 5:30 p.m.

She is also going to start her premed classes this spring. She’s planning to earn the education degree as a backup, in case her plans to become a pediatric neurologist don’t work out.

“They’ve been pretty fabulous,” said their mother, Aimee Schaff. “They impress me to no end on a regular basis.”

She does have one concern about her daughters, though.

“I sometimes think they need to have a little more fun or relaxation,” she said.

Brittney and Brenna, who turned 19 on Monday, attended Orchard Elementary and Riverside Middle School, schools Brittney described as “equally awesome.” After kindergarten, though, they were in separate classrooms until they reached West High.

Their mother thinks that separation brought them even closer. They were always protective of each other, she said, but also very competitive.

It’s true, Brenna acknowledged with a laugh: “We got competitive to the point it was disruptive to other people.”

They were sophomores in high school when a representative of MSUB visited West High and talked about University Connections, a dual-credit program that allows Montana high school students to take an unlimited number of college credits. The Hoffman sisters signed up and never looked back.

Soon they were both carrying full college loads while keeping up with their high school classes and part-time jobs. In the spring of her senior year at West, Brittney was taking three on-campus and two online classes from MSUB. West High allowed her to take a two-hour break every day so she could attend college classes.

Brenna, for her part, said there was a time during her senior year when she was in class or studying every day from 7 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Last summer, after she graduated from high school, she took eight college courses.

Brenna remembers toting her business-law textbook—a huge volume that cost $350—to West High, so she could study in her free time.

“I would bring it to class and people would say, ‘What class are you taking?’” she said. And when she took classes at MSUB as a high-schooler, there were some awkward moments.

“It was scary,” she said. “I walked in one class and I was like, ‘Do I have to tell the teacher I’m not in college?’”

Natalie Bohlmann, an associate professor of education who had Brittney in her educational psychology class last year, said the difference between Brittney and most of her other students was even more pronounced, because there are so many nontraditional students at MSUB.

In most of her classes, Bohlmann said, the average age of her students was probably 23 or 24. She’s had a few high school students taking a class or two in the past, she added, but “it’s very unusual to have someone like Brittney and her sister,” who were taking full loads.


Ed Kemmick/Last Best News

During our interview, Brenna and Brittney were joined by their cat, Webster.

Brittney was a confident, involved student, Bohlmann said, and the only difference she noticed was that she had fewer life experiences than the others in class.

“But it didn’t prevent her in any way from sharing her experiences in a relevant way,” she said.

Brenda Dockery, an internship adviser and adjunct marketing instructor at MSUB, said she was most impressed with Brenna’s ability to work on her own.

“She is very independent,” Dockery said. “She does everything on her own. It’s amazing.”

Brenna and Brittney, who are part of a blended family with six siblings, are animated when they’re together, constantly interrupting each other mid-sentence, correcting errors of fact or recollection and finishing each other’s thoughts.

They are both a little worried about Brenna’s plans to move to Bozeman this summer. She has an internship with the Bureau of Land Management this spring—which she plans to squeeze in around the final 24 credits’ worth of classes she’ll be taking—and then will start an internship this summer in the Bozeman office of Edward Jones, the investment company.

She also hopes to start her master’s degree in finance this summer, and she’s confident she can finish her online-studies course through North Central University in one year.

Brittney, after she graduates with her education degree in a year and a half, or two years at most, is thinking of going to San Diego for medical school. In the meantime she’ll be studying for the Medical College Admission Test.

“The MCAT is very expensive, so I want to make sure I do it right the first time,” she said. But then she shrugged and added, “If the whole med school thing doesn’t pan out, at least I could teach. I love kids.”

Both girls agreed that their high school classes, once they had begun their college studies, seemed incredibly easy.

They also noticed, against all expectations, that not everyone in college was motivated and eager to learn. They were surprised to discover that you didn’t even have to attend all your classes every day. But they didn’t want to sound critical, either.

“No offense to anyone,” Brittney said. “We’re just kind of weird.”

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