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Double dipping: starting college as a high school student

Vasquez-Chavez outside the Main Building at GRCC.

By Omar Vasquez-Chavez – Collegiate Staff

Transitioning from high school to college could be one of
the hardest transitions any student could go through. While going through this transition, one has to go through a different environment, new people, more responsibility and much more. Many students struggle with this transition because it is a sudden change and not everyone is prepared for this.

I thought that this transition would be certainly be difficult for me to deal with, as I go to a small high school with about 400-500 students. Colleges are much more bigger with at least 5,000 students within one college. This and many more factors had me fearing that I would have a tough time transitioning from high school to a college, but an opportunity arose in my high school; I was told that I could take dual enrollment classes during my senior year of high school. is would allow me to begin taking college courses while I am still in high school instead of going directly into a college without any experience on what it would be like. It  may have been a struggle, but there were many benefits from this opportunity.

Around the springtime of my junior year, a number of students and I were called down for a meeting. I wondered what this meeting could be about, our SAT tests, senior year, volunteer work, or anything like that. Once I went into the conference room, there were about 15 other students there, with a few more coming in after me. Our counselor and assistant principal were there and they told us of the opportunity to take dual enrollment classes our senior year. In place of taking two electives for our schedule, we could take two classes at our school that were taught by Grand Rapids Community College professors. We would get high school and college credit, and we wouldn’t have to pay to take the classes. This seemed like a great opportunity for me to get a head start in college and I could get a feel for what college classes would be like without having to go straight into college without an idea. Since I am a first generation college student, I did not have family that could tell me much about how it is like in college. This would allow me to learn before I fully enroll. While there would be a lot of responsibility on me to not fall behind in class and to take it serious, I felt like I could handle it and I would benefit very much from doing this.

At the start of the school year, our first two hours were college classes. English 101 on Mondays and Wednesdays, and Intro to College on Tuesdays and Thursdays. This meant that the first class of the year that I took would be my college class. The first few days of class were not very hard, as they were more about introduction to the class. As the weeks went by, it continuously became harder and more intense. I have dealt with stressful classes before, but this was different.

I would have many assignments due and essays to write, and it was a lot to deal with. One of my worst habits is procrastination, and this was more evident in my college classes. I had to adapt to the amount of work there was in college and how to manage my time better for all my assignments. However, this was the reason I was taking these classes, to find out my weaknesses and strengths before I enrolled full time in college. The semester concluded, and I did really good with my classes. I did not fall behind, I did not procrastinate as much as I used to and I got my first experience with college coursework. It was a great experience, but I thought that maybe it would be better if I did more than just the classes that my school offfered.

During the winter, I asked my counselor if I could take more classes at GRCC instead of the classes that were offered here at my high school. She told me that I could and to tell her what classes I was planning to take. After thinking about what classes would t in my schedule and which ones interested me, I decided on taking English 101, Intro to French, and Journalism. With the amount of credits that I was taking, I was considered a part-time college student while also being a high school student at the same time.

At the beginning of the winter semester, I started my first day being a dual-enrolled student at the campus. This was a weird feeling as I did not know what to expect and since I had not gone here before, I felt like I would be lost and I felt a little out of place. My first day of class was not so difficult, as I only had one class and it was around the time I normally took classes at high school. This class was two hours, so it was longer than the typical hour and a half class, but it did not feel too long. It was an interesting feeling because I had never met these students before and it was a very different feeling than taking classes at my high school.

The next day I had two classes, so it was more of a typical college schedule. Although it was only two classes, it did feel like it was a lot to do in such a short amount of time. I took six classes at my high school, but these classes are not very hard and only one hour long. However, two classes in college are more work than six classes at high school. I needed to do more work and listen more than I normally did. It was beneficial though, as I was more exposed to campus life and I saw more people and how they went about in college.

Being able to take college courses while still in high school is the best way to have an easier transition between high school and college. Many students struggle when starting college because they do not know what to expect when they get there, especially rst generation college students. With dual enrollment, I could go to college like any other college student can, take the same classes, be treated as a college student, and all while I am still in high school.

I graduate from my high school in May of this year, and I plan to enroll in at the University of Michigan to pursue my career goals of being an engineer.