University News

WIU Student on Track to be One of the Youngest Graduates Ever

November 9, 2022

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MACOMB/MOLINE, IL – Western Illinois University Information Systems student Ella Lingafelter will graduate with a bachelor's degree this spring at the young age of 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.

Lingafelter attended the East Moline public school system her whole life and strived 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," Lingafelter said. "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 went on to complete her associate 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 grade point average at both schools.

"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."

Although Lingafelter has a bright and successful future ahead, she often feels rewarded by the experience she has 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. 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.

Lingafelter feels 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 what was 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," said Lingafelter. "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, visit

Posted By: Lexi Yoggerst (
Office of University Communications & Marketing