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Three Long-Term Benefits of Early College Programs

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This post is from a student, parent, or professional contributor. The opinions expressed by the author are their own and do not necessarily reflect the positions, viewpoints, or policies of Niche.

High school is a critical time period for many students around the world. This is because many students are preparing to apply to college and think about different career paths. Especially with most jobs requiring postsecondary degrees, it’s a dream for many students to pursue higher education. 

However, with college tuition on the rise, many students of color and those who come from low-income families tend to struggle to turn this dream into a reality. 

Growing up as a daughter of immigrant parents in a predominantly Hispanic community, I along with many others attended Title 1 schools where our educational environment consisted of mold on the walls, buckled floors, fallen ceiling tiles, limited resources, technology, a small budget, you name it. 

Although I knew how to stay focused and remain vigilant on my educational goals despite the circumstances around me, the thought of paying for college was always on my mind from a young age. 

I practically dreaded the day I would apply to college since I knew the cost of higher education was expensive. That was, until I was introduced to an early college program within my community. 

Early college programs were designed to provide high school students who are traditionally underrepresented in higher education to earn an associate degree or up to two years of college credit to help them pursue their future endeavors. 

I am proud to say that because of this program, I am now pursuing my undergraduate studies debt-free. 

There are several benefits that early colleges provide to high school students. Here are three reasons why you should consider the long-term benefits of early college programs.

Helps Build Familiarity with College Environments  

Since early college programs are a hybrid of high school and college, gaining familiarity with the typical college atmosphere is beneficial for students when they decide to enter a 4-year university or college.  

College life also comes with major responsibility, and learning to balance it with all the aspects of your life is a bonus when it comes to early college. 

Programs like this introduce high school students to the rigor of college-level courses, professors, homework, time management, and resources that colleges have at their disposal. 

Since these high school students are introduced to this environment at the start of their freshman year, over time students can develop crucial study habits and independence needed to excel in college while still in high school. 

If high school students can adjust themselves to a college atmosphere, this can save them time and avoid headaches during their undergraduate studies and in the work force.

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Completing an associate degree in high school can open doors where there are none for a typical high school graduate.

When you have an associate degree, you can expect to find more career and internship opportunities as compared to only having a high school diploma. 

This is because early college graduates are able to show employers that they have the motivation, drive, and discipline needed to earn a degree and to pursue their desired career. 

Furthermore, no matter what the current unemployment rate is, the chances of advancing in a certain career or higher education is higher when graduating from these types of programs.

Helps Reduce the Cost of College

 In my opinion, the greatest perk of graduating from an early college is earning my associate degree and over 60 college credits for free.  

This is because the ability to acquire these credits has allowed me and several of my peers to save money and reduce the overall cost of our undergraduate studies.

The rising cost of tuition for higher education is the main reason why many students of color and those who come from low-income families tend to rethink twice about getting a degree as it can be a financial burden for many.

On the other hand, early college programs provide a way for students to earn a degree and get free college credit without having to spend a dime or accumulate significant tuition costs.  

Depending on each college or university, students with an associate degree can start studying their desired major almost immediately without having to think about shouldering the burden of high tuition costs or paying for required classes that can be completed at an early college.  

This can give many students and families the flexibility to budget and save their money rather than having to spend years paying off your education like most individuals who graduate with a regular high school diploma.

Overall, attending an early college program is a great opportunity for high school students to save money when entering college and get a glimpse of the “college experience” before entering as a full-time student.

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Author: Yolanda Pineda

Yolanda is currently a full-time student at the University of Houston studying Business with a minor in Law, Values, & Policy. She is a recent graduate from Houston Community College where she received her Associate of Science. When she is not making content for Niche, she is dedicated to helping her community and social causes.