Getting ready for college and university acceptances has become more and more complicated over the years. Students must navigate high school (and all of the social stresses that this involves) while also navigating through the different paths that make them prepared for an attractive college application. If you are part of the "I'm First" generation (the first in their family to go to college) the path can get even more tricky. The important thing to remember is that there is more than one way to get to graduation and more than one way to qualify for a great college.
First and foremost, you have to take classes that are preparing you for college. If you go to the college board website, you can see the path that you need to follow to qualify for college. Even if you are planning to enter a community college first, you should still plan on finishing the A-G courses. (link: https://hs-articulation.ucop.edu/guide/) However, you have to finish these classes with a "C" or better for colleges to accept them. Doing this and taking the SAT or ACT sets you as a qualifier to get into many colleges. If you want to get into a more competitive college, you need to do a lot more. The following three rigorous paths are offered through Encore High School. There is no right answer to the question of "how to" because high school is not a one size fits all experience, neither is preparation into college. You have to look closely at who you are as an academic and decide what you want your high school and college experience to look like. The answer is different for everyone.
You don't want to stress yourself out by overloading your life with classes and extracurricular activities. You need to figure out what you want to do with your college life and plan accordingly. High school only happens once and you can miss the point if your extracurricular activity is overloaded homework. Where do you want to be at graduation?
AP Classes Pros - These courses are extremely rigorous. In May of the class, students are tasked with taking an AP exam that will determine how well they learned the material that is the standardized curriculum approved by the College Board. High Schools generally offer an extra point in the class (An "A" is worth 6 points for GPA instead of 5). Depending on the points received for the class and the university or college that you go to, Passing the AP exam with a 4 or 5 can test you out of having to take the course in college and give you college credit for the class.
AP Classes Cons - These classes require a lot of extra homework, study sessions, and stress. If you don't pass the test, the grueling schedule could have been for no reward and earning a "C" in an AP class could hurt you in college admissions. Not all colleges offer credit in that course, with some colleges giving only elective credit for completed AP courses. (This saves money in college because credits are complete, but takes away the ability to take classes that might not stress you out as much.) When you pile on multiple AP classes, you might get into a habit of just studying facts for a test rather than taking the deep dive into the subject like what was intended with AP classes.
Honors Classes Pros - These courses are also rigorous. The workload and the critical thinking is deeper, like an AP class, but does not boil down to how well you take a test. High Schools generally offer an extra point in the class toward overall GPA. If the course is recognized as an Honors course by the College Board that extra point in GPA will still count toward the overall GPA and college admissions.
Honor Classes Cons - These classes require a lot of extra homework. They do not count for the possibility of college credit. If you take too many Honors courses, you may have an extra curricular of homework. If you take only Honors classes when AP is offered in different subjects at school, colleges may not look at your path as being the most rigorous.
Concurrent Enrollment Pros - Taking courses from the local college while going to high school changes the game entirely. This takes the pressure off of completing that AP exam because you are taking the actual class that you are trying to test out of in the AP course. These courses give you college credit. (Tranferability is dependent on the college you transfer into.) This college credit counts toward your high school graduation and your college degree. For the high school student, many times the courses are offered at a very discounted rate (sometimes only a $1 if you are enrolling through your high school counselors not including books). If you complete enough college credits, you could be applying to college as a transfer student instead of an incoming freshman. A lot of times, taking the actual college class is easier than taking the AP course.
Concurrent Enrollment Cons - These courses require you to take the class online from the college or go to the college campus to complete. There is no safety net for your financial aid plan. You are attending college as a college student, so your GPA at the college could affect your ability to get financial aid. This is not a bad thing, you just have to make sure you don't fail your college classes. You have to purchase your books (unless your high school offers a school textbook program for concurrent enrollment).
There is no right answer to the equation on how to get into high school. There is merit with all types of advanced curriculum. The best way to figure out what is best for you, is to talk with your school counselors and research your first choice colleges. The biggest part of planning for college is to know what the college you want to go to is looking for. If you don't plan to meet those requirements, then you will likely have to choose an alternate college. The best idea for you, is to pick your top ten schools and research their entry requirements. Then talk to your school counselor to see what the likelihood would be for you to be able to go there.
At Encore High School, all three programs are offered to help the advanced academic student. There are AP courses offered in English, Spanish, Biology, and Government. Honors classes are offered in most subjects (Including Chemistry II Honors and Calculus Honors). Concurrent enrollment is offered to all students that qualify. Every year, Encore has graduates that show a variety of classes completed using a variety of these paths to be college and career ready. When this is coupled with the block schedule and the amount of extracurricular and elective classes offered, students from Encore are attractive to college admissions boards.
Whether you choose AP, Honors, or Concurrent Enrollment - there is always a mode of education that will fit you. Becoming a lifelong learner is the goal. Deciphering college entry plays a role in success after high school. Dig in, study, and don't stress yourself out.
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Petey the Pirate is the author of this blog for Encore Education Corporation. Part of Encore Education Corporation is Encore High School, a free public performing arts regional high school in Southern California grades 7 - 12. Encore's program is currently taking applications for the fall 2020 enrollment. www.encorehighschool.com. Where arts and academics grow together. WASC Accredtied. Copyright 2020.