During the past 25 years, an entirely new class of educational programs has sprung up in the United States. Because of innovative ideas, colleges have found new ways to cater to the very brightest high school age youth. In all likelihood, most people have heard of geniuses and whiz kids who start college at an exceptionally young age, but now a number of programs exist that turn this possibility into a reality for more of today’s talented youth. Research into the area has also increased in recent years.
Early entrance programs, often referred to as radical acceleration, take entire groups of students who have yet to complete high school and place them in a supportive peer environment within a collegiate setting. Various programs allow these students to then spend their time working toward either a full college degree or a high school diploma plus transferable college credit. In almost every case they are taking college level courses alongside regular college students and are expected to perform to that high standard. In addition to academics, these programs are designed to provide enrichment and support mechanisms for dealing with the unusual transition and other issues unique to young bright students.
While certainly not meant for everyone, these programs provide the most gifted students with exceptional opportunities. At the student’s disposal are the full resources and variety of a university setting. This means top-notch faculty, unusual and more challenging coursework, excellent libraries, access to research projects, and numerous other opportunities. Such programs have been so successful that graduates are often accepted by the best institutions in the country, either for grad school or when completing their undergraduate degree. Those, who truly aren’t being challenged or have exhausted the options at their current school, can benefit greatly from this kind of opportunity.
The academic opportunities are considerable, but the advantages of an intelligent peer environment should not be underestimated. While being the very best student at one’s home school can earn bragging rights and the appreciation of teachers, it can often be detrimental to peer relations. The tendency to be labeled as a “geek” or “nerd” and the resulting childish torments can be quite detrimental in a young person’s life. Admittedly much of this diminishes as peer groups mature and students develop coping strategies to “fit in”, but frequently a change of setting can be the most immediate solution. Since students are not isolated from other college students, the abilities to “fit in” will still be developed but in surroundings that are more understanding and less destructive to self-esteem. Entering one of these programs, students often encounter an environment they have never had before. They are surrounded by other equally bright people and have the opportunity to feel a sense of group unity and acceptance. In fact, many students reflect that the close-knit environment is the most significant part of the experience for them, and they carry these friendships with them long into the future.
A Nation Decieved, endorsed by the National Association for Gifted Children, provides a summary of many of the studies and research showing that acceleration can provide academic and social benefits for most gifted students.
Unlike many sites advocating educational acceleration, this one is run by two individuals who have personally experienced it. Robert Rohde and Bess Wilson are both graduates of the TAMS program in the classes of 1998 and 1999 respectively. Robert, who hold no credentials in education, founded this site in 2001 out of a deep felt regard for that program and a personal interest in both researching other early entrance opportunities. Bess, who holds two Master’s degrees in education and will be pursuing a Doctorate in gifted education, joined the site in 2006 to help maintain it and provide it with a more research driven flavor. Looking at the various options, we have concluded that early entrance programs are almost universally useful to the niche market that they serve. However, considerable variation exists among the characteristics of different programs and these pages attempts to describe the differences and similarities so that interested students and their parents can find the program that will be most useful to them.
The Early Entrance FAQ explores in greater detail many of the concerns and issues surrounding these programs.
In addition to the basic list of programs given below, a Comparison Chart has been provided to quickly relate some of the most important aspects of each program. For specific information on a particular program, click on the acronym under “Details” for the program that interests you.
Early Entrance College Programs in the USA
|Details||Program Name||Associated University||Location|
|TS/EEP||Transition School and Early Entrance Program||University of Washington||Seattle, WA|
|EEP||Early Entry Program||California State University - Los Angeles||Los Angeles, CA|
|BUA||Boston University Academy||Boston University||Boston, MA|
|BHSEC||Bard High School Early College||Bard College||New York, NY|
|ECG||The Early College at Guilford||Guilford College||Greensboro, NC|
|PEG||Program for the Exceptionally Gifted||Mary Baldwin College (women only)||Staunton, VA|
|MASMC||Missouri Academy of Science, Mathematics and Computing||Northwest Missouri State University||Maryville, MO|
|TAMS||Texas Academy of Mathematics and Science||University of North Texas||Denton, TX|
|TALH||Texas Academy of Leadership in the Humanities||Lamar University||Beaumont, TX|
|AAG||Advanced Academy of Georgia||State University of West Georgia||Carrollton, GA|
|UWA||University of Washington Academy for Young Scholars||University of Washington||Seattle, WA|
|GAMES||Georgia Academy of Mathematics, Engineering & Science||Middle Georgia College||Cochran, GA|
|SRC||Simon's Rock College of Bard||N/A||Great Barrington, MA|
|EH||Early Honors Program||Alaska Pacific University||Anchorage, AK|
|RHP||Resident Honors Program||University of Southern California||Los Angeles, CA|
|NAASE||National Academy of Arts, Sciences and Engineering||University of Iowa||Iowa City, IA|
|TCS||The Clarkson School's Bridging Year||Clarkson University||Potsdam, NY|
While beyond the scope of this document, it should be noted that almost all colleges will accept qualified applicants at least one year early and many allow for some form of concurrent (or dual) enrollment so that high school students may take college classes during part of their school day While lacking the level of support and peer environment that make the programs listed above so successful, these options do present worthwhile educational opportunities. Partial lists of colleges and universities offering early admission or concurrent enrollment are available from the Get Out of Jail Free section of the independent Raven Days site. If early entrance programs do not suit your educational needs, then I would encourage you to explore other options that may be more appropriate to your situation. A few other suggestions for the academic acceleration of gifted youth can be found under question 10 in the FAQ.
Since November 3, 2001