It shouldn’t surprise you to learn that college admissions are more competitive now than ever before.
If you’re looking for ways to top up that transcript, increasing your chances of acceptance to schools of your choice—and doing well—consider taking a college course now, while you’re in high school.
A September 2017 report by the Community College Research Center (CCRC) at Teachers College, Columbia University, and the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center shows that high school students who take college courses have more college success than their peers who don’t start early.
The report looked at data for 17-year olds who took dual-enrollment classes in 2010 and then tracked them for six years as they journeyed through college.
They found that across the country, 59 percent of dual-enrolled students who entered a four-year university finished their bachelor’s degree within five years. Locally, some results were higher.
What does this mean? It means that taking college courses in high school is right for you—and you’re more likely to finish a degree than those who don’t.
In addition to increasing your odds of success in college, taking college courses while you’re in high school has some other benefits:
1. You’ll explore new subjects and grow your brain
While your high school curriculum covers a broad range of topics and skills, it may not have additional courses that interest you. If you’ve ever been intrigued by politics or advanced math, or you want to take college writing or an introductory business course, you can—and you can earn college credit that you can transfer.
Why should you explore new subjects? You’re motivated, you’re interested, and you can make time in your schedule to dedicate yourself to learning something new.
Plus, when you learn new things, you grow your brain. And growing your brain means you improve your capacity to learn and solve problems. Excellent skills to have for college, right?
2. You’ll develop time management skills
If you haven’t learned it yet, you’ll build these skills while taking a college course in high school: managing your time is just as critical to your success as is working hard.
For starters, plan when to take college courses in high school. If there are certain times of year that you’re less busy, plan on taking the course then. If it’s easier for you to take the course in the summer, do that.
Whatever you do and wherever you do it, make sure that you have the time to dedicate to it. Don’t take on an extra course when you’re busy with sports, clubs, family commitments, or other activities.
Another tip: start with one course at a time, at a time that’s right for you.
Need help? Ask someone, like a teacher at your school, a parent, or another adult in your life whom you trust. Make a plan and stick to it. You can do it.
3. It gives you experiences with digital technology
The chances are that your college course will have an online component and will require some interaction with digital technology.
You’ll need to know how to use digital technology as a college student, especially if you haven’t had much experience with it as a high school student.
Taking a college course as a high school student gives you that experience—and also prepares you to advocate for resources you may need, like a laptop or tablet. If asking the teacher, guidance counselor, or principal at your school doesn’t work, check out the resources at your local library.
Still stuck? Talk to the instructor of the college course, or the college admissions office.
Knowing how to navigate the digital landscape—from online course components to brick-and-mortar hardware—will only make you that much more competitive in the admissions process.
4. You can save time and money
Degree programs require a minimum number of credits and a minimum number of general education requirements, like writing and math.
By taking college courses in high school and transferring the credit to your college or university, you can minimize the number of credits that you have to pay for once you get to school—and spend your time taking the courses that pertain directly to your major.
Be careful: sometimes the cost of taking a college course in high school can be expensive. Look for programs that offer dual-enrollment options or that have agreements already in place for high school transfer credits.
5. You’ll make yourself college-ready
College courses and degree programs are more rigorous than high school and require independence and motivation, mixed with grit and hard work for success. You can do it—and by starting early, you’ll build the skills and confidence you need for success in college.
Face it: you need to stand out in your college application. By taking a college course in high school, not only do you show your desire to learn and succeed, you also show that you’re ready for higher-level work.
While you don’t want to go through high school overwhelmed, you do want to maximize your opportunities for success. If you can manage your schedule and extra-curricular demands, taking a college course in high school might be just the ticket for you to optimize your chances for your future success.
6. You can start ahead
If you can manage your time well (see #2), do well in the courses and experience you choose (see #1 and #3), and can stand out in the college admissions process (see #5) then you can not only save time and money (see #4), you can start your college career early.
That’s right, you can maximize your college time by taking the courses and having the experiences that you want to have by taking general education requirements typical of a first-year college student during high school.
What does this mean? More time to focus on your path to the future.
You’ve got this. Go for it.