EEP position paper



Selected Excerpts

from a testimonial by an EEP mother

WHY COLLEGE SO YOUNG?

Sitting in a lecture hall with a hundred or so other college
students I took particular notice of my twelve year old son seated
beside me. He was calmly looking around the large classroom,
taking in the unfamiliar scene, paper and pencil neatly placed On
his desk, waiting for the professor and for his college career to
begin. I asked how he felt, if he was excited or nervous and he
gave me a familiar frown that quickly turned to a smile and he
said, "Mom the only nervous person is you, I'm fine.' Chemistry
and Survival, 158B and its co-requisite chemistry lab 159, were not
subjects I had chosen to master. However, they were subjects
chosen by my son, along with Microcomputers 258, during his college
orientation at California State University, Los Angeles.

We had arrived at the lecture hall early because I had wanted to
be sure he had found the correct classroom and had effectively
orientated himself to his new environment. Since it was his first
day at college and his first college class I tagged along to help
ease him into the adult world of college life. In all fairness I
think it was to ease me into accepting his early entrance into an
adult world. The experience can be likened to taking my son to his
first kindergarten class and walking away knowing he was beginning
a whole new phase of his life without me. This time I didn't just
leave him at the classroom door with a reassuring teacher leading
him into the classroom. This time I actually sat in his classroom
watching as he took his first adult steps away from me. I felt
pleasure and grief, excitement for the budding adult, loss for the
boy that was disappearing.

My son was large for his age but still had a child's
appearance so that if you only casually glanced at him in a campus
setting you might assume he was an ordinary college freshman. Many people have
thought it odd that I should have put my son in college at such a
young age yet in fact it was the most beneficial thing his father
and I could have done. My son loved college from the very
beginning and begged his father and I not to return him to junior
high at the end of his summer classes.

We had not planned for our son to become a full time college student.
In truth the whole idea of each an actuality was far from
our minds because even though he had always been a good student, he
had never been a straight A student. He had to go to college to
actually learn what it felt like to get straight A's. By mid
quarter all previous ideas about our son's education had changed.
We enrolled him into the university as a full time student.

His elementary school grades had never been an indicator of his
actual academic ability. They had, until college entrance, been
more a reflection of his teachers frustration at him for not
keeping his work orderly or for his lack of social success in group
work where the teachers accepted the grades given by the students
to the students. We had always encouraged our son to work to a high
standard and he never thought twice about working on projects
through his weekends or over three day holidays and so on. The
teacher would assign a five minute speech with at least one hand
made illustration. My son would give a fifteen minute presentation
and provide three or more illustrations. Sometimes he was
penalized for not following instructions and given a lower grade.
The quality of his work was recognized by his classmates who
applauded his presentation and dreaded following him. Recognition
from teachers was less reliable. My husband used to joke saying
that, "If he is going to work this hard and do this quality of work
he might as well he in college."

When our son had scored in the 99th percentile on a nationally
recognized test he was given the opportunity to take the Washington
Pre-College exam at Cal State, Los Angeles for possible admittance
into college. Since the test was similar to the SAT we decided it
would be an excellent opportunity for him to see how he stood with
his fellow students and had him take the exam. Within 4 months of
taking the WPE he was also given the opportunity to take an actual
SAT as part of the Johns' Hopkins Talent Search. Interestingly
enough there were only five points difference In the test scores.
To our surprise and delight he took Regional Honors with John's
Hopklns and was invited to attend the summer session at CSLA.
Test scores and college grades had proven that our son was
capable of doing college level work but more importantly it was his
overwhelming desire to remain in college coupled with his eagerness
for, and dedication to his studies that motivated us to grant him
his wish to stay. Neither he, nor we have regretted putting him
into full time college study when he was only twelve.

My son would never have had the opportunity to attend college
so young if it were not for the Early Entrance program at
California State University, Los Angeles. The program was begun at
CSLA by Dr. Estelle Gregory, Associate Professor of Psychology, and
approved by the Academic Senate and President James Rosser in March
of 1983. Dr. Estelle Gregory worked with Dr. Halbert Robinson,
creator of the early entrance program at the University of
Washington, to form the program at CSLA. Although the programs
have some similarity only CSLA puts the qualified young students
directly into college classes upon their acceptance into the
program.

To gain admittance the young scholar must score at least 1000
on the Washington Pre-college examination administered at CSLA. The test is similar to the SAT and clearly shows the students potential
for success in college. Students are put through a
screening process to determine whether they are both emotionally
and academically prepared for college. In addition they must write
an essay stating why they are interested in college and what they
wish to achieve, Prospective students are interviewed with their
parents individually and meet in social situations within the
early entrance rooms at CSLA. After the students have passed the
screening process they are given the opportunity to sign up for
classes during the summer to determine if they can be
successful in their class work and happy as college students. At
the end of summer classes the students are again examined for
eligibility and are either admitted to full time status, placed on
a waiting list or told to try again the next Summer if they are still interested. The selection for entrance is
not based solely on their grades but also upon the student's
desire maturity and general need for the program.

Once a student becomes a full time EEPster they are required to
participate in group meetings with the EEP director and receive
guidance an class selection. All students receive mid-term reports
from their professors that inform the EEP director of the student's
class participation, grades etc. so that the director and guide the
students in ways that lead to academic success and advert potential
failures. They are also encouraged to spend time In the EEP rooms
so they can interact with students similar in age to themselves and
to either aid those needing social adjustment or to receive such
assistance.

Almost all the Early Entrance students join the Honors Program at the university and there they
remain the top scholars at CSU. It is not uncommon for an EEP
student to he ranked number one in their class. Almost all the
EEPsters go to graduate school within two years of their graduation
from college.

My son was one of the shy and inhibited new EEPsters when he
first began in the program. The older EEPsters would approach him
and he would rebuff their attention because he did not trust most
students his age. He had left a school and students that thought
his head was a place to bounce a ball off of or that his lunch was
something that should be stepped on or he was the trash can upon
which to dump their food. In other words and with good reason he
was withdrawn from and angry at young people. The EEPsters
recognized his pain and slowly worked to engage his attention.
First they would play chess with him because it did not require
conversation. The next step was to ask him about his classes and
he would respond with one or two word sentences. After struggling
for any area of interest that would spur on conversation they hit
upon computer games. They noticed my son perk up when the room
conversation was about computers and they took the hint. They were
then engaging him In conversations that were four and five word
sentences. Computer talk led to other subjects and after six months
my son was socially active and had made friends. The students would
not just let him sit and sulk in the EEP room for hours between classes.
Their patience and persistence helped change his life.

Academic work was never a major problem for him. One of the first
things he said after returning from an Honors English class
was, "They actually want me to think! They don't necessarily agree
with me but they are excited about creative thinking!" Ho was beside
himself and his excitement was obvious. College offered him
the approach to learning that he had been seeking all his years in
school. To make matters even better he was receiving A's. His
confidence was increasing and his interest in life was returning.
A child that had only months earlier been depressed and discouraged
was now talking about his future. He had friends and hope for the
future. When people ask me if I think I robbed my son of his
childhood by putting him in college so young I respond, "No, I've
given it back to him."

For questions about the EEP, mail rmaddox@calstatela.edu

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