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Early Start Program gives incoming ASU freshmen head start on academic, professional success

Group of ASU students posing for a photo and making the pitchfork symbol with their hands.

Fall 2022 Early Start Program participants. Photo courtesy the School of Politics and Global Studies

December 07, 2022

Arizona State University graduate student Judah Waxelbaum is a long way past that anxious time before his freshman year as an undergrad, but he still credits much of his academic success since to the School of Politics and Global StudiesEarly Start Program he participated in then.

“Even now, while getting my master’s of public policy, I owe so much to Early Start,” Waxelbaum said.

“Students not only get credits before starting their first semester, but make connections that will give them a massive edge over their peers. I would recommend Early Start to any student looking to not only hit the ground running but succeed in college.”

The program, this year led by Gina Woodall, teaching professor, and Kristin Cochran, political science PhD candidate, emphasizes personal success to students, who participate in a two-week immersive program designed to jump-start their academic journeys ahead of their first year at ASU.

“It’s about two things,” Woodall said. “The first is preparing them and making sure they are up to par academically and getting them some experience in the changing level of academics from high school to college.

“The second is to get them really comfortable and acclimated to a collegiate environment.”

Students achieve that through participation in thought-provoking activities, making connections with professors and learning about pathways for their desired endeavors.

This fall, that included a tour of the Arizona Capitol and the Maricopa County Tabulation and Election Center. Students also had the opportunity to meet with various alumni and professionals who could offer guidance as they start college, such as former Early Starter Waxelbaum. He encouraged them to work hard, build and maintain relationships and be friendly with those who have opposing political views.

Current freshman David Montes said that, while he was initially intimidated by the Early Start Program, it turned out to be an enriching experience for him.

“My biggest takeaway from the Early Start Program was the concept of grit,” Montes said. “I was so afraid of failing college, but having professors teach you that it’s more vital to keep trying than giving up definitely helped my journey as a Sun Devil.”

While the program is designed for first-year students, the benefits and networking from the experience lasts well beyond two weeks.

“Ninety-nine percent of the people who have gone through this program would say it was absolutely worth it because the connections really do last a lifetime,” Woodall said.

Other students who have gone through the program claim that it gave them the resources they needed for support.

“I chose my Early Start professor, Dr. Woodall, to be my thesis director for my senior thesis, because we are both familiar with each other,” current junior and former Early Starter Analeigh Lerma said. “It's going to be a blast working together.”

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