Western Illinois University Information Systems student Ella Lingafelter will graduate with a bachelor’s degree this spring at just 18 years old.
On track to earn Summa Cum Laude honors, Lingafelter plans to pursue her master’s degree in Computer Science at the University of Illinois, according to a Wednesday WIU release.
Lingafelter attended the East Moline public school system her whole life and worked to have the best education and grades possible.
“All of the standardized school tests ranked me at a ‘college level’ for as long as I can remember,” she said in the release. “So, I decided to take a college placement test at my local community college out of curiosity. According to the testing system, at 12 years old I was able to take classes there.”
Lingafelter completed her associate’s degree with high honors at the age of 16 and attended WIU in the fall of 2020. She was able to do this by completing college courses online outside of her regular middle school and high school work, maintaining a 4.0 GPA at both schools, WIU said.
“I chose WIU because of the Information Systems program they offer,” said Lingafelter. “Technology, math and science were something I’ve always taken a liking to, so choosing my major was not a difficult decision for me.”
She often feels rewarded by the experience she’s been able to have as an online student, living at home.
“I have not had the traditional college experience my younger self envisioned. However, being a Leatherneck has made me feel like I belong regardless of my approach to college,” she said. “Being a Leatherneck means being a part of an amazing community of people; my peers and staff, like Kassie Daley, Ashley Wilkinson and George Mangalaraj, who I have worked with are all wonderful people, and I am proud to call myself a Leatherneck,” said Lingafelter.
She said WIU’s faculty and staff were influential in helping her accomplish many goals, including relieving the financial burden of attending college.
“The financial obstacles were one of the biggest difficulties my family experienced when I began college so early,” said Lingafelter. “The scholarships offered at WIU have completely covered our costs for tuition and materials and I cannot express how grateful I am for this. I truly believe the support I have received from everyone at WIU has allowed me to be where I am today.”
When asked for one piece of advice she would give another student like herself, Lingafelter chose the importance of connection.
“It is easy for WIU-QC students to feel separate from the students in Macomb, especially through online settings. So, my advice would be to visit the campuses when possible,” she said. “I would sometimes visit the Macomb campus just to pick up my textbooks even though they could be shipped to the QC campus. I would also recommend taking advantage of the online resources WIU offers. Many of my online professors have been located in Macomb, but meeting with them online through Zoom has helped me feel more connected.”
For more information on WIU’s Information Systems program, click HERE.