Early College Readiness

For some highly and profoundly gifted tweens and young teenagers, early college is a viable and serious educational option to explore. However, just because a child is capable of learning high-level material does not necessarily mean early college is the right choice. Using an early college readiness checklist can help parents assess whether their child may be ready to succed with university-level learning.

Decades of research tell us that no one academic indicator can predict early college success. At the same time, anecdotal data and case studies give us insights into the social-emotional and organizational issues that should be taken into consideration before enrolling an adolescent or young teen into a college class. Before we get to the early college readiness checklists, let’s first take a look at certain essential academic skills.


The ability to read and comprehend high-level texts seems like a no-brainer prerequisite, but some auditory learners (the kids who can watch a video or listen to a lecture and remember every detail) aren’t always independent readers. Many college lectures supplement – but do not replace – what is written in the textbook, making reading an essential college skill. The good news: Audio textbooks may be available.


“The dog ate my homework” – or the modern day equivalent of “My computer crashed and I lost everything” – is not going to fly in an early college class. If a student doesn’t like writing assignments, how’s the work going to get done? Parents can, obviously, offer writing support at home for homework assigned essays, but that still leaves the problem of how writing will be completed durings tests. A student – not mom or dad – can try negotiating alternative assignments, but be prepared for a flat out no, unless the student has been pre-approved for official accommodations through the college’s Office of Disability Services.


Note-taking is a 2-part skill. First, does the student know how to take effective notes, rather than writing down everything verbatim? Second, does the student have the stamina and attention skills to keep up with the pace of note-taking during a lecture? If a student has an IEP that identifies a writing or processing speed disability, they may qualify for a free student scribe through the college’s disability services department. Keep in mind, a college may approve accommodations for students who provide a recent neuropsychological evaluation report, but individual professors have to agree to implement the accommodation in their own classes.

Non-Academic Skills

Time management, being able to sit through a class that may last as long as 3 hours, and handling embarrassment that can come from being wrong in front of college peers are just some of the non-academic skills to consider in the early college readiness equation. Pro Tip: If you find yourself already thinking, “Well, I’ll just sit in the back of the class in case something happens” as you’re reading this, then that may be a cue to consider open-source, online college classes, instead.

I’ve created two separate checklists that provide you with numerous non-academic criteria that you’ll want to think about when you’re trying to decide about early college readiness and your child. The first early college readiness checklist focuses on non-academic skills required for tween and teen part-time college enrollment. The second early college readiness checklist can be used for the under-18 year old student that may be ready to live on campus.

The Early College Readiness Checklists are informal inventory tools that professionals and parents can use to assess if a student may benefit from radical acceleration into college. The checklists are based on peer reviewed research from University of Washington, Mary Baldwin College, Johns Hopkins University Center for Talented Youth, as well as case studies I conducted with a dozen early college students while I was obtaining my master’s degree from Johns Hopkins University. I’ve used these checklists at NAGC national conference workshops and with private clients. You can download them for free today.

Download the Early College Readiness Checklist Now

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