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What is an early college high school?

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By Christina Tynan-Wood

What you might find at an early college high school

  • Hard work: In an early college high school, four years of high school are compressed into two so all the flab is gone from students' schedules. There is lots of homework, and the demands are high.
  • Diversity: According to The Early College High Schools Initiative, nearly 75 percent of students enrolled in early college high schools are African-American or Latino.
  • Hard-working students: None of these options are for the student who fears hard work, wants a traditional high school experience, or needs lots of direction. Early college high school students are expected to learn to manage their time, pull good grades, and keep up with college-age students.
  • Lots of support: Early college high schools tend to be small, about 300 students on average. Students receive tutoring, supervision, counseling, and guidance from a dedicated high-school staff. Early college high school students are more likely to be better prepared for college than the college freshman who did not receive this transitional guidance.
  • The freedom of a college campus: Though they have more support systems than their fellow college students, early college high school students — with some rules and exceptions — have the run of a college campus. Rules and restrictions vary school to school, but in many cases early college high school students are not allowed in dorms where college-aged students live. They may not be allowed in other areas of campus for the same security reasons.
  • A smoother transition from high school to college: Many early college high school graduates (42 percent, by one estimate) continue on at their school's partnering institution for college, which makes for an easier high school to college transition.
  • Not your typical high school experience: Though this varies school to school, most colleges do not allow high school students to participate in college sports programs. In some cases, early college high school students can participate in college clubs and organizations; they may also have their own clubs and use college sports facilities for exercise.

What supporters say

  • Preparation for college: The transition from high school to college is a challenge for many — especially those whose parents don’t know how to negotiate college. The early college high school helps ease this transition by providing support and assistance.
  • Creates a college-bound mentality: Spending every day in a college setting encourages kids to value college and to continue once they graduate from early college high school.
  • Small size means kids don’t get lost: In a huge traditional high school, teens can get pulled in a lot of directions — not all of them good. Here, the small size and teacher support mean kids are accountable for their work, goals, and actions.
  • Good value: Two years of college is expensive. So getting out of high school with two years of college credit means that a student can either graduate from college sooner or take more advanced classes in college. Either way, the student gets more out of the money spent on college.

Christina Tynan-Wood has written for Better Homes and Gardens, Popular Science, PC World, PC Magazine, InfoWorld, and many others. She currently writes the "Family Tech" column in Family Circle and blogs at