Early Colleges are part of the next generation of educational innovations designed to bridge the high school and college experience while opening new opportunities.
Earning College Credit in High School Through an Innovative Program
Early Colleges are part of several new and innovative programs being introduced on the high school level that allow students the opportunity to take college classes for college credit. In many cases, Early Colleges are based on community college campuses and provide help with math homework and other subjects, but some are also facilitated through major universities.
Entrance to the program is competitive and student applicants go through a screening process. Yet this does not mask the fact that Early College students are still high school students.
The College Experience and Student Maturity
Although Early College courses are taught by college or university faculty that often have no experience with classroom management skills, the students can be as young as freshmen, taking a college-approved Western Civilization hybrid course that parallels high school state standards for World History classes. Maturity levels impact classroom management, making it difficult for professors not used to high school students.
Too often, students have great difficulty differentiating between the normal “homework” they are used to in non-college classes and the demands of a college survey course that never requires nightly worksheets. A two-page essay due every two or three weeks is treated as just another homework assignment.
Perhaps the greatest single problem faced by Early College students is the inability to mentally transition from traditional high school expectations to college-level expectations.
Additionally, freshmen and sophomores are still in the process of growing in maturity and organizational skills. This also impacts their ability to focus on a lecture/discussion in a class that can last for ninety minutes.
Watering down expectations is not an option if these students are being held to the same standards as any college or university student taking the same class for the same credit.
Positives in the Early College Experience
If students can rapidly adapt to the rigors of a college course, they will fulfill course and classroom expectations just as in any college course. It is the extent of this adaptation that worries many professors questioning the merits of teaching upper-level concepts to substantially younger students.
Yet many Early College students, will be the first in their families to attend college, an incentive that drives these younger students to succeed.
Early Colleges are particularly beneficial in areas of high unemployment due to the loss of manufacturing jobs. The program represents the first step in a college process that will enable the next generation to find meaningful employment in a dramatically changing environment.
Recommendations to Enhance Early College Performance Levels
Students accepted into an Early College program should be required to participate in a semester-long course devoted to research methodology, expository writing, and learning the intricacies of paper citation and/or footnotes. A significant problem Early College professors face is an almost total lack of knowledge among young students regarding research and writing.
Spending valuable classroom time teaching these skills should not be expected. A semester class devoted to this should be mandatory and not a part of regular English classes that are often not involved in Early College course offerings.
During Early College orientation sessions, students should attend study skills sessions designed to help them differentiate between college expectations and prior middle school and/or high school experiences. Improved outcomes and higher levels of competencies can be achieved if students enter class situations fully aware of all requirements.
Ideally, these sessions should be led by college professors assigned to the program.
Overall Value of Early Colleges
The Early College concept is here to stay and represents a significant advancement in bridging high school and college. The advantages of Early College are many, both for parents and students.
As these programs grow and become further integrated into the college and university curriculum, they will play a vital educational role.
As you’re applying, check out this step-by-step guide on writing beautiful personal statements for college and putting together an awesome college application:
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