Frequently Asked Question

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What is the CSU Early Start Program?

The CSU Early Start Program invites incoming first year students to develop readiness for college-level math and/or English courses during the summer before entering the CSU. The goal of Early Start courses is to better prepare students in math and/or English before their first quarter, thereby improving their chances of earning a college degree.

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When and Where is the CSU Early Start offered?

  • The Early Start Program takes place the summer before a student's first year on campus.
  • Upon admission, CSU campuses will inform students required to participate in Early Start how and where to sign up for the program.
  • Early Start math and/or English courses will be available at every CSU campus and online.
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Who must participate in the Early Start Program?

All students placed in enrollment category IV based on multiple pre-college measures for math and/or English are required to engage in the Early Start Program; Students placed in enrollment category III are encouraged to participate in the program.


The following students will not be required to participate in Early Start:

  • International students and residents of other states
  • Students participating in summer Institute
  • First year students who are not California residents
  • First year students who are international students
  • First year students academically prepared for college-level math and/or English courses based on multiple placement tests
  • First year students participating in Summer Institute
  • Students who appeal based on circumstances beyond their control
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What can high school juniors do to prepare for college-level coursework in math and English?

The best way to ensure success in college and to avoid spending the summer after high school graduation at a CSU is to be prepared in math and English!

Math and English skills are critical to success in college regardless of the intended major. Through the Early Assessment Program (EAP), California juniors have the opportunity to measure their math and English skills towards the end of the 11th grade. As a result, juniors are strongly encouraged to take the EAP test. Results are available at the beginning of the senior year and can be used to ensure students are using their senior year to become "college-ready" if they are not already. As students are planning their high school senior class schedules, it is important to know that math and English courses are good for all students in preparation for college success, and senior year math coursework is really essential for those interested in science based and technical majors (science, engineering, nursing, etc).

For more information on the CSU EAP program, see the CSU English and Math Success web sites.

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How can CSU students fulfill the Early Start program requirement?

First year students are encouraged to complete Early Start program activities at the CSU campus that admitted them if at all possible. This will afford them an opportunity to integrate into campus and will provide the smoothest transition to their fall math and/or English coursework.

Students may also participate in an Early Start program offered at any other CSU campus. This may be appropriate for students not attending their local CSU. Some CSU campuses offer online course options to support non-local students as well.

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How will students know they need to complete the Early Start Program?

Campuses may develop different strategies for communicating with students about the Early Start requirement. Students will be officially informed of the obligation to participate in Early Start by Email. Students will then be directed to the Early Start Smart Page to select where they plan to fulfill the Early Start requirement.

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How will students be directed to the Early Start Program Smart Page?

Students will be directed to the Smart Page separately or as a follow-up to filing the Statement of Intent to Register. A few campuses will direct students to the Smart Page as a routine way of notifying them about their testing and/or Early Start requirements. An Email will be sent to students who need to participate in Early Start.

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How much will it cost?

The Early Start Programs offered at any of the CSU campuses has a common fee. $182 per unit and is subject to change based on approved fee increases. Campus parking and course instruction materials may also be charged at select campuses.

Financial aid is available for those who demonstrate need.

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Are students enrolled in the Early Start Program eligible for financial aid?

Yes. Financial Aid support will be determined by the destination campus for students with an expected family contribution of $5K or less. Those who qualify will be eligible for an Early Start Program Waiver (ESPW). Students who qualify for financial aid after their Early Start experience is over will not be retroactively funded. The students' financial aid eligibility at the time of ESP enrollment will be determined for the ESPW. Early Start students eligible for this waiver may take more than one Early Start course in math and/or English and will continue to be covered by the waiver.

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California residents who apply for financial aid and have an Estimated Family Contribution of $5,000 or less will be eligible for a waiver of the per unit fee.

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How far away from a CSU campus or branch campus must students be before they are be exempt from participating in Early Start?

A California student's place of residence is not a system approved exemption. Students may fulfill their Early Start requirement by attending an appropriate course at any CSU campus, and some campuses offer online courses.

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If a student cannot find a program, would the Early Start requirement be waived?

As all campuses are participating and offering Early Start courses, it is most unlikely that a student would not be able to find a program. Such an issue therefore does not qualify for a waiver.

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What services are available for students with disabilities?

Students requiring reasonable accommodations to take part in the Early Start Program should contact the office providing services to students with disabilities at the CSU campus they will attend in fall. Students will be required to establish their eligibility for reasonable accommodations by providing appropriate disability documentation from a qualified treatment provider. Disability documentation must clearly describe the student's present functional limitations. Reasonable accommodations for the Early Start Program will then be prescribed from the CSU campus from which the student will be attending in fall.

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Where can I get more information?

For freshman application and admission requirements, see Freshmen Admission. For financial aid application procedures and information, see Financial Aid.

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