UW News

February 2, 2015

Alumni study highlights successes among UW early-entrance students

News and Information

A recent study found that graduates of the University of Washington’s two early-entrance university programs excelled in their academic and subsequent professional lives.

The study was published in January in Roeper Review, a publication focused on education for gifted students. It looked at the academic, professional and personal outcomes for 192 students in the UW Early Entrance Program, which started in 1977 and enrolls students as young as age 13, and UW Academy, an early admission program started in 2001.

A majority of respondents reported being happy with their academic achievements (97.4 percent), their family (93.2 percent), friendships (87.9 percent), work (87.4 percent), financial situation (82.7 percent) and romantic relationships (77.2 percent). Almost all respondents (97.4 percent) said the programs had a positive influence on their intellectual development.

The study also underscored the academic success of program graduates, who have attained doctoral degrees at a rate of almost 14 times that of other UW alumni and received prestigious awards including Rhodes and Fulbright scholarships.

The findings around respondents’ personal lives were mixed. Though 43.3 percent said the early-entrance programs had a detrimental impact on their romantic relationships, 70.4 percent said the programs positively influenced their social lives.

“Having a community of bright peers your age during the college experience was helpful; it can be difficult to relate to older college students in the early years and it’s motivating to know others are there who aspire to learn or achieve more,” one commented.

The two programs are housed at the Halbert and Nancy Robinson Center for Young Scholars on the UW’s Seattle campus. Students in the Early Entrance Program start with a year of Transition School, a college preparatory program taught at the center, then enroll in university classes full time. By contrast, students in the UW Academy program leave high school after 10th grade and enroll at UW as freshmen.

Robinson Center Director Nancy Hertzog said young students can be disillusioned when their college experience isn’t like that of their peers, who are often living away from home and engaging in adult behaviors, like drinking.

“We’re providing them a college experience, but it’s a different college experience,” said Hertzog, co-author of the study.

The study notes the need for early-entrance programs to prepare students for college socially and emotionally — and the center is taking steps to do just that. This school year, it hired a doctoral student who checks in with students and provides guidance, and ramped up parent educational programs to help parents support their children while also encouraging independence.

Also new is an online program that allows students to find alumni mentors by discipline and region who can provide personal and professional guidance. The center also organizes events and clubs to provide age-appropriate social outlets for students.

Hertzog said students often talk about the center’s positive social environment and their relief at finding like-minded peers. And an overwhelming majority of study respondents — 89.5 percent — said they would choose the UW early-entrance programs again.

“That tells me we’re doing something right,” Hertzog said.

The center is hosting its annual open house from 1 to 4 p.m. Feb. 21 at the University Club. The event is open to the public and will include a chocolate foundation and a talk by guest speaker Susan Goodsell Assouline, director of the Belin-Blank Center at the University of Iowa, which focuses on programs, research and advocacy around academic acceleration