Hello everyone! Welcome back to another blog post, where I tell you the pros and cons of college. Specifically, Early College. Early College is a program I’m in that allows me to “leave” my high school and take all college courses at my community college (St. Petersburg College) to get my high school diploma, AA degree, and pre-requisites for a degree out of the way by the time I graduate. Basically, I sign my soul to the college devil to crank out four technical high school years in two college years which will save me two college years. Simple, right?
There were many things I had to consider before deciding if this was something I really wanted to do. Although I wasn’t going to an actual university, the educational dynamics/rigor are the exact same, while having the atmosphere of a slightly smaller one. Was I ready to be treated the same as 18, 19, even 40 year olds when it came to assignments? Was having Fridays off every week really able to justify the fact that I wasn’t going to have a true “high school experience?” When it comes down to it, it’s a lot of pressure on a sixteen-year old. Since it’s about that time for sophomores to think about Early College, even juniors for Early Admissions (same thing but for seniors), I thought it would be helpful to provide advice from the inside. So now, I give you my two cents. The pros and cons. The Yin and Yang. Enjoy!
PS – Although some pros and cons apply only to Early College, most of these do represent actual college experiences. Most are what typical college freshman go through, so no matter what everyone will go through this eventually!
1. Free College- Free college education and books for two years? I’m surprised more people didn’t take this opportunity! What I noticed is that some teachers don’t even use the book, for example my US History teacher. A whole semester passed, and I didn’t look at a single page once. It’s just a shame how people pay so much for books, but they don’t even have a true use for them. It’s a waste of time and money, and I’m so thankful I don’t have to pay for that.
2. Greater Acceptance Chance for instate schools- While I know grades/education isn’t the only thing colleges look at, being in a program like this truly gets you a leg-up in the competition. It gives you TWO chances at applying to an in-state college, which is reassuring when you’re applying to schools like UF in Florida. First off, you can apply as a freshman, which is what most people do when they’re straight out of high school. Or, if you’re like me, you’ll be a junior in credits already, so you can apply also as a transfer student. It’ always good to have a backup plan, especially if it’s for your dream in-state school. One thing I didn’t mention was that all the credits you earn transfer from SPC into any college in Florida, so you don’t have to worry about any credits not transferring, or retaking classes for that reason.
3. Customizing your Own Schedule- When it was a couple weeks before our first semester, we went to our orientation. There, they made our first semester schedules for us, so we didn’t really have a chance to pick specific times or days. Now that I’m on my own, I can plan my week exactly how I want them. I made it so all my days end at 12:15 pm except Tuesdays, I switched one class to online, and I only have on 8 am class! That way I can easily make my way back to school to play volleyball, lead club meetings, and participate in prom committee. Having so much freedom really let’s you plan your day around your life, and if you play it right, there are many benefits to reap.
4. Breaks (Fridays Off, Month-long Winter Breaks, etc)- I CANNOT believe how much off-time I get as a college student. I always have three-day weekends, so it’s easy to get all of my homework done. I have extra time to volunteer as well, and it just allows me a day to recharge while the rest of the world is still spinning. Oh weekend, how I love you! Plus, a month-long break with no homework truly is life-changing. More time to spend doing what I love! (Netflix and eating)
5. Teachers That Want to Be There- I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard my friends complain about their teachers this year. Whether it be their notes not matching up to the tests, playing favorites, or just all-around being a mean person, I can tell you that 2/3 of those things don’t apply to college professors (I mean, if they’re grumpy they probably just didn’t have any coffee yet). These teachers took the time to get an actual degree for what they’re teaching you. Whether it be Masters or even Doctorates, these people care about what they’re doing, and they want you to succeed. They treat you like adults because you’re there for a reason too, and there isn’t any time for anyone to talk loud or say something weird. Everyone is expected to act like adults, which helps the atmosphere of concentration and learning bunches.
6. Less Busy Work/Surprise Work- Sophomore year was the epitome of busy work. If the teacher was there we’d have a sub telling us to watch a movie and complete a work sheet. If the teacher didn’t have anything planned, they’d assign some random activity, most likely not meant to help us in any way. In college, if the teacher isn’t there or doesn’t have anything planned, we could just leave. All the work given in college has a purpose, each class has a syllabus, and rarely do those teachers ever stray from the syllabus. It has made my life so much easier knowing when tests are two months in advance instead of two days before! I can genuinely say that all assignments I’ve had, no matter how much I may have complained about them, had some sort of positive impact on me.
7. Saving Two Years of my Life- Not many people can say they’ve earned their AA degree/are working on a Bachelors already when they’ve just finished high school. I’m one of the few who can. Since I don’t know exactly what I want to do when I grow up, I can take these two years I’ve saved and either travel, take on an internship, or go straight into college. I earned myself two free years of my life back, and I intend to live it up.
8. There’s Always Something Going On- Like Danielle Carolan said…”There’s always something going on!” Seriously, every day there’s something going on in the main building. It could be anything from a club fair, Spanish Heritage Week, Democracy Day, or a hot chocolate bar, SPC makes sure its student life is poppin’. Just wait until actual university!!
1. Separation From High School- One thing I definitely had to give up was taking classes at my high school. Even though I’m still technically a student, I take all my classes elsewhere, meaning I can’t relate to what any of my friends talk about when it comes to classes. Of course I’m taking basically the same ones, but I can’t really ask them for help on assignments, because they don’t have the same course structure as I do. It makes me feel out of the loop sometimes, especially when it comes to social gatherings. Thankfully, I’ve spoken out about how I felt and now people are doing a much better job at letting me know what things are happening!
2. Balancing Two Schools- Now I know what you’re thinking: I thought you just said you left your high school? Yes and no. I don’t attend the high school during school hours, but as soon as it’s over I rush back there for club meetings and sports. I’m so lucky and glad I’m able to stay up with Prom committee and volleyball, but since the college doesn’t take high school extracurriculars into consideration, that leaves me trying to figure out how to make my schedule not exceed a certain time. At the beginning of the year, I was almost always late to club meetings or practices due to a class ending 15 minutes after high school. I just hope next year my schedule can accommodate that.
3. Not Seeing the People I Know- Although part of the reason I left high school was because of not feeling like I truly fit in, I still miss the people who were so kind to me during freshman and sophomore year. In all honesty though, I consider leaving high school a blessing in disguise, because it showed who truly cared about me. During the first couple of weeks people asked me how my classes were, how I was adjusting, and so much more. While transitioning wasn’t easy (I went through a period of time where I truly doubted my self-worth, and my mindset spiraled downwards. I credit it to social media, because every time I saw people I knew hanging out without me, I took it personally), I learned to value my intelligence, compassion, and confidence more on my own. I now take more initiative to see people, and I now feel closer to so many new people!
4. Missing Out on the “High School Experience”- This was a tough one to come to terms with. Since I wouldn’t be at the high school senior year, I would miss out on things such as dress-up weeks, pillowcase days, being treated like a senior, etc. I wouldn’t spend my last year fooling around with friends in class, participating in senior skip days, or anything of that sort (although I’d rather have all my Fridays off). But to be completely honest, I think the benefits I receive from doing this now will outweigh anything I’d forget five years from now if I stayed. I can still go to school games, dances, prom, clubs, sports, and hang out with my friends. I go to my youth group, which I’m going to COSTA RICA with this summer. I’m the vice president of a club, and I finally rekindled my love for blogging. I made some new friends both at college and outside of it, and I have the world at the tip of my fingers. And I can truly say that after six months of being here, the risk was worth taking.
Thank you so much for reading! I am going to write a story of how and why I chose to do Early College, but I hope you can apply these pros and cons to any college experience. This is meant to show both the good and bad of taking this step, but it’s important to me that those considering it have a clear and well-rounded idea of what to expect. As always, you can always chat with me on my Instagram!