Are you a high schooler at home because of the pandemic? Are you looking for something to do because you are bored? Taking college courses is a good option that will fill some time and benefit you. Specifically, signing up for college courses as a high school student can help define and lead you toward a potential career path, save you some money, and help utilize your time in an efficient way. High school students can take college courses in many ways, including dual enrollment programs and pre-college programs.
Dual Enrollment programs in Massachusetts are offered either by schools or the Commonwealth Dual Enrollment Partnership. If you meet the eligibility criteria, you can take courses at many colleges, including community colleges and state universities. According to the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education, “Students do not pay tuition or fees for courses taken through CDEP.” John Fink, senior research associate at the Community College Research Center, located at the Columbia University Teachers College, also notes the benefits of students in these programs. He says, “Across the board, former dual enrollment students are going to college at higher rates”.
Pre-college programs are another viable opportunity for students interested in taking college courses while in high school. Tufts University is an example of this, offering “Courses at Tufts for High Schoolers – Summer Sessions.” The Tufts University Courses at Tufts for High Schoolers program provides students with options to either take courses with undergraduates or with other high school peers interested in rigorous coursework. Professors for this curriculum are from Tufts University, or other world-renowned universities. The experience students get out of these programs is indescribable. Many students find their courses so fascinating that they keep coming back, and consider their time one of the best summer experiences they’ve ever had.
Speaking from experience, I have done both the Dual Enrollment and Pre-College Programs. I have taken many courses at Roxbury Community College and Tufts University. I had fantastic experiences taking courses at both, and it was the best thing I did during the summer.
My first impression of college courses was that they would be challenging and too advanced for me to understand. I was excited and nervous at the same time. Although, I was finally taking a course that I truly enjoyed rather than a course that I was required to take, I was nervous to take courses taught at a college level while I was still in high school.
This past summer, I took an Astronomy 10 course and a Foundations of Law and Ethics course at Tufts University. I had the best experience while taking the Astronomy 10 course because the class was interactive. The experience of taking a course that I was passionate about was amazing. The course had many assignments, projects, and final exams, but I was less stressed than in regular school classes. I was able to do something that I truly liked and was happy to be productive during the pandemic.
My favorite part of the entire experience was what I was able to get out of the courses. I was able to earn college credits for the courses that I took over the summer, and I accumulated credits towards my college degree. According to Accredited School Online, “a study published in 2017 found that by the time they finish high school, ECHS (Early College High School Program) students earn 21.6 college credits on average.” Additionally, I got to learn curriculum in the specific field of study that I liked. I started to learn that I want to major in biophysics in college, and that I want to work toward a career as an astro-biologist. I would have never thought of that or came to this realization as a career since my high school doesn’t offer astronomy courses.
There are many bonuses and great things that come from taking college courses over the summer and school year that meet the eye. I was more outspoken in class and I made new friends from across the nation, including Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York. I was amazed to be able to make new friends with similar interests to me, all during the middle of a pandemic.
Other opportunities that came from doing the pre-college program include meeting fascinating people. As the “lunch and learn” that Tufts University Pre-College Program offered, I was able to meet a Massachusetts state representative Tram Nguyen. She spoke about civic engagement and awareness, something that I was also passionate about. I was also able to take a College Essay Writing workshop that helped me become a better writer.
As you can see, college courses open up exciting pathways to explore and offer amazing benefits to high school students. It helped guide me to find my way to a career, gave me a taste of a college experience, introduced me to new people, allowed me to gain college credits, and shared with me valuable events to participate in. So as you begin to prepare plans for summer 2021, consider taking college courses — you won’t regret it!