When I was in high school, I took a few AP classes in order to earn some college credit. Some of my friends took a few college classes at the local community college. When we graduated high school, we had already earned enough credit to be considered second-semester college freshmen, and we thought we were ahead of the curve. Turns out, when compared to 19 high school students in Lake Havasu City, Arizona, we were way behind.
This year, 19 seniors at Lake Havasu High School will graduate high school will also earning their associate’s degrees. These students all took a test during their sophomore year of high school which allowed them to take dual enrollment classes during their junior and senior years of high school.
“We’ve all had to adapt to teaching ourselves how to study because things have come so easy to us before; so now our teachers expect us to help teach ourselves,” said Savanna Bailey, a senior at the school. “I’ve had a couple of anxiety attacks, but it’s all worth it whenever you really do learn more. You have to bring every single thick textbook home with you and you look, obviously like the nerdiest one in the school carrying all of your books.”
Looking nerdy seems like a small price to pay for two-years worth of free college credit, if you ask me. So how do these students make it through the insane amounts of homework and stress they must encounter while studying for both high school and college classes?
“I would say last year was probably one of the first years that all of us had to study for a class,” said Konrad Skarpness, another senior at the school. “Biology, specifically, that was the first time we started forming study groups. In the past, teachers have allays said, ‘Oh you guys should form study groups for classes.’ And we never bothered, but last year we started doing study groups. There were really helpful.”
Obviously, these students are having a really great opportunity to learn more and advance themselves, academically. But are they missing out on the real college experience? According to Skarpness, they aren’t.
“It definitely felt like a college experience,” he said. “I think the classes are a lot more stimulating, especially this year, I noticed there’s a lot more hands-on things we get to do instead of open to page 12 and do problems one through five. We are getting to dissect cats in anatomy. It’s a lot more… stimulating opposed to sitting in a desk all day.”
Another student, Veronica Escobedo, also enjoys the dual enrollment classes more than traditional high school classes.
“I feel like I learn more in a dual enrollment than a regular class,” Escobedo said. “I like the pace of the dual enrollment, it’s faster and that’s the way I can learn best.”
What I would be concerned about missing out on in this environment would be the friendships that I could make in a college environment. I made some of my best friends during my first two years of college; could these students still get the social experiences of college if they earn their associate’s degrees in high school?
“It’s also tightly knit here,” said Savanna Bailey, a senior. “We all know everybody and I think: ‘Well Nolan said he’s getting his AA, I’m going to, too.’ We are all friends and we all know it will be awesome if we all do something together. It will be like another high school memory if we all do this.”
All in all, this really is a great opportunity for these students. But what are they: high school students or college students?
“I consider myself more of a high school student than a college student, at this point,” said Skarpness. “So it’s definitely more of a high school experience, but it’s almost like a prelude into what college is like. It just makes sense, too.We are already taking these classes, why not get a degree?”
Is Dual Enrollment Right for You?
Earning College Credit in High School