A rigorous admissions process, instruction in attitudes and skills needed to do well in college, and a close-knit community of like-minded peers ensure the success of young students who attend the University of Washington’s (UW) Transition School and Early Entrance Program (EEP). This is one of several programs that allow gifted students in middle or junior high school to develop their full intellectual potential by studying at the university level.
The Transition School, a one-year program of radical educational acceleration, prepares students for full-time university enrollment the following year. The program has been crafted to nurture students’ intellectual, social, and emotional development and to enable them to mature at their own pace.
“Without a peer group, early entrance—and adolescence—can be an isolating experience.” —Kathleen Noble, Director, Robinson Center for Young Scholars, University of Washington
Approximately 200 students apply each year to the Transition School, but only 16 are admitted. Prospective EEP students are no more than 14 years old, have consistently scored in the highest ranges on standardized ability and achievement tests, have outstanding school achievement records, and have educational needs that would not be met at the high schools they would attend. Students selected for admission demonstrate a passion for learning, are strongly motivated to attempt a challenging educational program, have the support of parents, and show readiness for college-level work in the near future.
Through individual accelerated educational plans; core classes in English, mathematics, and the sciences; and tutorials in college survival skills, such as note taking, time management, and negotiating bureaucracy, the program prepares students for the autonomy and intellectual rigor of university life. Students are required to live in a family setting off campus but share responsibilities at the school’s student center. Students are encouraged to use university facilities and to build friendships outside the program as well as within it.
Once students have completed three-quarters of the Transition School program at an adequate level and have earned five university credit hours with a grade point average (GPA) of at least 3.0, they can be recommended as full-time UW students in EEP. Most proceed on this track, but others have chosen to attend high school, have transferred to other universities, or have taken time off to work, for example, at a laboratory.
Most EEP participants are excellent university students and maintain GPAs of 3.5–3.6, well above the university average of 2.9. EEP students’ majors are evenly spread across the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences, and they often double- or triple-major.
Follow-up studies on EEP students indicate that accelerating their secondary education is healthy for many highly capable students and that it does not compromise, but in fact fosters, their social and emotional development.
Bobbie Collins-Perry is managing editor for the Duke Gifted Letter.