The Foundation of Excellence is a 501c3 non-profit whose mission is to work with very smart students from low-income neighborhoods, helping them access to opportunities that they should have, but don’t.

When High School is Not Enough

For some, high school is a challenging time, complete with social, academic, personal, and emotional changes. For a lot of students, adjusting to high school takes time, and so they spend the four years of high school dealing with these things.

For many others, four years of traditional high school isn’t needed. Either they adjust rapidly and are ready to move on in three years or less, or they prefer to go in an altogether different direction for their education. What follows is an outline of four alternatives to the traditional high school curriculum.

DUAL ENROLLMENT WITH A COMMUNITY COLLEGE: You might already be familiar with dual enrollment – high school students register to take classes at the local community college. PROS: This is a great choice because there are so many more classes to choose from when compared to the typical high school offerings. Students can earn college credit once they’ve passed these classes and can also get a feel for what a college class is like. CONS: There are no guarantees that the credits that are earned will be transferable. Also, at some colleges one cannot just take any class. There may be entrance/readiness exams that would have to be passed before being able to register. There might also be a cost associated with taking the class.

DUAL ENROLLMENT WITH A 4-YEAR UNIVERSITY: For some, it might come as a surprise that students can also dual-enroll at public and private universities. While all of the pros and cons from typical dual-enrollment with a community college holds, there are other things of which to be aware. CONS: A community college is typically closer that a 4-year university would be. Students would be responsible for securing their own transportation either way, but this extra distance could create added difficulties. PROS: Students might find their credits are easier to transfer than at a community college.

Dual enrollment can be done both full-time and part-time. Students can take classes beyond the curriculum (e.g. a Psychology course that is not offered at their school) or to replace classes in a high school curriculum (an English class that would count as both college and high school credit).

VIRTUAL SCHOOLS: A number of counties and states have started offering partial and complete high school curricula online. Students can take anything, from gym to AP Calculus, from the comfort of home. Pros: Students don’t have to interact with their peers unless they so choose. CONS: Students don’t have to interact with their peers unless they so choose. (A number of school districts have made it easy for those that live within district boundaries to take part in extra-curricular activities at the school. Some virtual schools have done the same for their students as well.) Another con (which may seem surprising in this, the age of technology) is that many students have a hard time adjusting to a learning experience that is not 100% teacher-led.

EARLY ADMISSION: A limited number of colleges and universities offer the opportunity for academically ready students to spend their senior year of high school as college freshmen. Colleges expect that as high school juniors, the candidate would already have completed almost all of the curriculum required to graduate, received competitive scores on college entrance exams, and be mature enough to responsibly handle a college campus as a 16 or 17 year old. PROS: No need to worry about transferring credits. The student is already in college. CONS: The emotional and academic transition to college can be difficult.

All of the options here might not be available to every student. For that matter, all of these options might not be right for every student. It is important that, any student that is considering one of the choices outlined here, sits down with parents and guidance counselor, as they would be able to what options are not only available, but best for the student as well.

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