Advanced Classes, Programs Offer A Head Start on College

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When it comes to paying for higher education, time almost always equals money. For high school students looking toward a college future getting ahead of the game at the next level doesn’t require looking farther than their own school. Many Iowa high schools offer concurrent or dual enrollment programs, as well as Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate courses, all of which can help students gain credits for college while still in high school.

While these programs offer some distinct differences, knowing about advanced classes now can help all students save on money when continuing on to college.

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Students might hear the name concurrent enrollment or dual enrollment depending on their school and the community college district that partner with their high school. Regardless of the name, these programs offer students the opportunity to take college-level courses while still in high school. These classes might take place at the local community college or during the regular school day at a student’s high school. Whichever way a dual or concurrent enrollment program works, the end result is the same: exposing high school students to college-level courses before high school graduation.

In many cases, these courses can count toward degree requirements at a community college, or can transfer as undergraduate credits at a 4-year college or university. Most programs offer a selection of required classes for an associate’s degree or technical classes that will introduce students to career training available through a community college. Some programs, like the concurrent enrollment program at Sioux City Community School District, can lead to students earning their associate’s degree by the time they graduate high school.

Students can also get a credit toward college classes by taking Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) classes at their high school, if they are offered. These classes are often integrated into the regular high school curriculum and focus on a particular subject which is taught at a college level. At the end of the semester or year, students take a test which, based on their score, can lead to equivalent subject credits when they begin their college career.

Unlike dual or concurrent enrollment programs which may offer a limited number of classes, AP and IB programs offer a wide array of subjects for which students can study. If a particular course is not offered at a student’s school, they may still sit for an exam through the AP Program.

Before embarking on either dual/concurrent enrollment, AP or IB programs, students should consider their workload balance and not bite off​ more than they can chew. Students should strive for balance in their schedule and consider their intellectual capabilities and after-school activities when selecting courses.

Meeting with a school counselor to determine the best course of action is always a good idea for students looking to challenge themselves and explore the options available. Together, students, families and their counselors can come up with a plan that not only challenges students academically, but helps them prepare for college in a way that can save time and money down the road.

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