The Early College Experience
The first thing I do every week of high school is to go to college.
Every Monday and Wednesday from 8-9:25 a.m., I become a student at Houston Community College. There, I take the same classes that college students would take. I sit in a college classroom, listen to a lecture by a college professor, and complete college-level assignments. This is Education 1300, a class at HCC in which I am taught success skills for learning in college and beyond.
This experience is unique to only six schools in Houston ISD; Challenge, East, North, South, and the Houston Academy for International Studies. In partnership with HCC, these schools offer a two-year associate’s degree alongside a traditional high school diploma.
From sophomore year onwards, a student takes several of these advanced college classes as well as AP courses to earn a total of 61 hours of college credit by the time of their graduation. Not only will graduating with all of these hours give them an associate’s degree, but it will also shave two years off of whatever future college education they wish to pursue.
All students will take some courses at predestined times, such as Speech and Education in sophomore year and English Composition I and II in their junior and senior year. From there, which courses you additionally take will be defined by your major, which determines which associate’s degree you graduate with.
There are two degrees offered: a degree in Arts and a degree in Science. Which degree a student chooses is dictated by their desired future career path. Students do not have to choose which degree they will take immediately, as they have time to decide both their future college path and their career before they make any decision on their degree.
Before any of this begins, a student must take the Texas Success Initiative test, also known as the TSI, in their freshman year. Students can complete the first half of the test before they even attend the school and the second half by the end of sophomore year. This test is usually one that a student takes after they graduate high school so that they can enter into higher education, but at an Early College, you are enrolled in higher education before you even get a diploma.
Of the 72 million students in the United States, just over 50,000 attend an early college school. While it is not an exclusive opportunity, it is one unique to only a few lucky individuals. I am proud to count myself among them
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