Is school getting ahead of itself? 

In the US, it’s normal for middle school and high school students to attempt to get ahead in academics by taking advanced courses that can meet future requirements ahead of time. These systems are viewed by most to be beneficial for those who wish to use them, but others see them as a means of incentivizing grades and going to college over other skills and experiences. Photo by Kenny Eliason on Unsplash.

In today’s academic environment, students can easily get ahead in their scholastic careers.  When I was in middle school, participating in the honors program meant that students were able to enroll in advanced classes, like introductory algebra or Spanish, that were only otherwise offered in high school. These honors students were able to get a leg up on their non-honors peers even before leaving middle school. In high school, I had the opportunity to take college courses as early as my sophomore year by enrolling in University of Connecticut Early College Experience courses and Advanced Placement courses. Now, in college, there are plenty of four-plus-one, three-plus-two and fast-track ways to jump-start a post-undergraduate career. This is just my experience, but it shows that there are accessible ways to get ahead in school if students can expend the effort. These opportunities are positive for students and allow them to save money and create more value from their education. 

AP and UConn ECE courses objectively save students money. AP tests cost $98 for an exam and UConn ECE courses cost $50 per credit. So, a regular high school student that enrolls in a three-credit ECE course would spend $150.    

For the sake of comparison, we’re going to assume that the AP exam a student is taking can be transferred to their college for three credits.  Tuition for an in-state student at the University of Connecticut is $16,332.  Assuming a student takes 15 credits per semester and 30 credits per year, one of their three-credit course would cost $1,633.20. That’s ten times as much as it costs to take an ECE class in high school and even more than it costs to take an AP exam, not  to mention the fact that UConn is significantly cheaper than other private schools.  If a student takes multiple courses in high school, they could potentially shave a semester or year off of their college career, saving time and a ton of money. 

These programs also allow students to get the most out of their college experience. UConn has general education requirements for each student, so taking college courses in high school can help satisfy those requirements. This provides students the flexibility to pursue topics that interest them, thus getting more out of their experience and enjoying their education more. Students often don’t know what they want to do with the rest of their life when entering college. Sometimes gen-eds help them to figure it out, but they can oftentimes be restrictive for students who want to take classes outside of those subject areas. Having some requirements covered beforehand allows for this exploration without the stress of not graduating on time. Students can also take classes associated with their desired major early so they get an idea as to whether or not they want to continue their education in that field or if they want to switch sooner rather than later. 

Fast-track programs hold similar benefits. One that I am personally interested in allows students to take some of their master’s courses as an undergraduate. This could potentially help students save money and pursue what they’re interested in further before actually enrolling in graduate school. Additionally, if you combine this opportunity with the many ways in which students can get college credits early, students earn more time to explore their passions as undergraduates. 

Overall, it seems like there are so many options to get ahead in education for those who want it.  Though getting ahead in one’s education has many benefits, some view accelerated high school courses as colleges interefering with grade school, pressuring every students to go to college and placing additional stress on those who might actually be interested in attending. This portrays college as the de facto life path for each and every high schooler. While this may cause issues, it is important to remember that getting ahead through AP, ECE and other means is always a choice.   

The many ways to get ahead in one’s academic career hold the immense benefit of helping to save money and increase flexibility, overall enhancing students’ experience. In today’s day and age, students who want an early start in their careers have a huge amount of resources and opportunities, and by taking advantage of them there are a lot of benefits. 

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