Is an Early Start the Best Start? Evaluating the Effectiveness of a Political Science Summer Bridge Program

Gina Serignese Woodall, Richard Herrera, Joshua R. Thompson, Jorge Coss Ortega

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Summer bridge programs are supposed to connect a graduating high school senior’s summer to their first semester in college, easing the transition away from home and into a university setting. Although research is plentiful on the programs, assessments regarding the overall effectiveness of such programs have been mixed (e.g., Cabrera, Miner, and Milem 2013; Douglas and Attewell 2014; Grayson 2003). As Cabrera, Miner, and Milem (2013) note, many of the studies collect data from participants in a one-time satisfaction survey and/or do not have an equivalent group of students who did not participate in the program from which to compare effectiveness. Our proposed study mitigates these flaws by employing a nonequivalent-groups quasi-experiment (NEG). Our bridge program—called Early Start (ES)— tapped into social, emotional, and academic engagement, as we sought to integrate the students into the university and school communities while holding high expectations and actively involving them in their own learning (Tinto 2004). Results suggest that not only were students enrolled in our program better socially and emotionally integrated into the university during their first year but they also scored better on content-based political science questions at the end of the fall semester, compared to their non-Early Start peers. Finally, aggregated data indicate an increase in retention for Early Start participants.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)447-463
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Political Science Education
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2 2017


  • College freshmen retention
  • college retention
  • political science bridge programs
  • political science retention
  • summer bridge programs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Sociology and Political Science


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