A Narrative Examination of the Experience of Early Entrance to College
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This study addresses the question “what is it like to be a gifted early college entrant?” Participants were eight college graduates between the ages of 23 and 45 who matriculated to college as full-time, degree-seeking students at age 16. This was a qualitative study conducted by open-ended interview and utilized narrative inquiry as a framework for the analysis. Participant responses were coded and analyzed using constant comparative method. Coded responses were grouped into 40 subcategories which were further collapsed into 7 overarching categories that provide a framework for understanding the experience of early college entrance: life story; being exceptional; understanding exceptionality through others’ experience; transition to college, academic preparation, performance, and experience; getting involved and pursuing interests; and social-emotional awareness and agency. These categories provide a picture of the milieu in which participants made the decision to enter college early. Results of this study suggest that participants experienced a milieu of educational experiences, including academic acceleration, and embedded social-emotional contexts that increased their academic self-concept and precipitated early college entrance. Despite failing to recognize their own giftedness and experiencing academic struggle, participants successfully completed college and embarked on meaningful careers. Interpreting giftedness as asynchronous development provides a framework for these results. The results of the present study suggest that while the native cognitive ability of a gifted early entrant might be sufficient to complete college, additional social-emotional supports are needed to fully realize the academic potential of gifted students.
Kotinek, Jonathan David (2013). A Narrative Examination of the Experience of Early Entrance to College. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from