Re: A word on Time Trained and Ranking
I understand where you're coming from (since the whole Bachelor's degree thing really hit home.) I think it depends both on individual skill level, intensity of training, and the dedication to the actual art.
Also, making a note of the difference between training 1 hour a week for 5 years, and 5 hours a week for 5 years--both are 5 years, but there will obviously be skill differences. (I think that is most definitely why some organizations have minimum amount of hours until certain rankings.)
I tested for 2nd kyu at a year and a half, at the same time someone who had been there for over 4 years. But I went every day, he was once, maybe twice a week.
We have a 1st kyu (just tested for that rank this year) who has been with our dojo for over 20 years... but he practices on average maybe once a month. Have no idea how long it will take him to reach black belt.
I think it's also about how well you fare in comparison to your peers. You can be surrounded by mediocre shodan and be a 1st kyu that blows them all out of the water, but you don't have enough hours and that would be the only difference. That's why I think it's important also to go to seminars and see where you are at your training on a larger scale than it is to go by the black and white of hours.
Hagihara-sensei always says how proud he is that at seminars, whether we're hosting it or we're visiting other dojos, that our students often get used for ukemi. Being recognized outside of your dojo is, I think, a better gauge than just what your numerical rank is.
(On another note, our dojo-cho and Hagihara-sensei's closest student--been with him for 17 years--and last uchi-deshi reached shodan in a little more than 2 and a half years. So it's possible.)