Monday, December 12, 2011

Early College and Lessons Learned

I mentioned earlier in the year that I was nervous about my daughter's first day of college.  What I didn't talk much about, however, was that this semester was very much an experiment, a testing of the waters.  While taking a college class or two isn't that unusual for high school students, we decided to pursue this option a bit earlier than most.  While my daughter is only 14 and a freshman in high school, I felt that she was more than academically ready.  What I wasn't entirely sure about was whether she would fit in with her older classmates.  Now that the semester is over, I've discovered my worries were very much unfounded.  So, I'd like to share our experiences thus far in case others are in a similar situation.

I had considered very early college a while back, but ultimately decided that the caliber of the local community college was not at the level of what I could find with rigorous high school courses online.  I decided we'd try a class or two later in her high school career just to show a variety of experiences on her transcript, but would pursue other choices that were a better academic fit in the meantime.

Last spring, however, someone on local homeschooling list shared info about dual enrollment at a small university down the street from where my husband works.  I had explored this university before, thinking it would be better than a community college, but the tuition, at $486/credit, made the classes out of reach.  What I didn't realize was the drastically reduced tuition offered to non-degree seeking, dual-enrolled students.  I called the admissions officer to ask if a 9th grader could be considered for dual-enrollment and to my surprise they were very open to it, and extended the discounted tuition to us as homeschoolers.  In fact, the admissions officer was homeschooled K-12! After I sent along ACT scores, she was quickly enrolled for her first college course in the fall. Doing so changed my original plans for 2011-2012 upside down. Lessons Learned for Mom: Don't be afraid to ask and be ready to quickly change plans.

Academically, the course, College Composition I, was too easy.  I knew it wouldn't be difficult and selected this course for its likely success, but I was very surprised at the low level.  This isn't a top university, but I did expect more from both the students and instructor at the university level. The professor was an assistant adjunct professor, so perhaps it wasn't the usual level for the class. Yet, many of her classmates struggled in the class.  While there were other capable students, dd was appalled that some of her classmates didn't know certain things, such as the proper use of there/they're/their or how to paraphrase. Lesson Learned for Dd: Dd got a taste of teaching to the lowest common denominator and discovered true boredom. It wasn't a good feeling and gave her appreciation for more challenging coursework.

My initial worry wasn't academics, but social implications.  I was not worried about dd's maturity, but instead concerned that she would be treated differently simply because of her age.  When I look at her, she looks like a young teen.  I assumed this would be obvious.  I was wrong.  Through most of the semester, her classmates and instructor assumed she was 18 or 19. The only reason it was discovered otherwise was because she actually did fit in quite well and spent time getting to know the other students. Eventually she was asked questions like, "Where did you graduate high school?" and "Do you work?"  It wasn't until the third to last class that some of her classmates discovered she was still a high school student.  I told her to be prepared for the age question the following week, after her classmates had a chance to process she was not 18, but in high school.

Sure enough, the following week a classmate asked her if she was a high school senior.

"No," dd answered.

The classmate worked her way down the grades until she landed on 9th.  Dd just quietly smiled and her classmate said,

"That's cool."

However, one of the boys in the class overheard the conversation and loudly exclaimed,

"You're only 14?!  You can't even drive and you are doing better than me in this class!"

All true, though I don't know what driving ability has to do with academic ability.  In fact, it seems to have an inverse relationship in our household. (smiles) The classmate shared his disbelief loudly enough that my dd soon found every head turned toward her, with the exception of the instructor and a student conferencing. Some would be mortified, but my dd just smiled with a shoulder shrug.

So, the cat was out of the bad, but at least it had good timing.  Dd had already proven herself and been accepted by her peers at this point. Lesson Learned for Classmates:  There isn't much difference between a mature young teen and older teens. Of course, homeschoolers are already aware of varying abilities within ages.  And now a classroom full of college students realize this too.

All in all, dd's first semester at college was successful. At some point she may try a different university, but for now the situation is ideal.  The university has been very accommodating, the classes are small (18 max), and she can even catch a ride with dad on the way to work.

She's enrolled for two classes next semester. Her instructor for College Composition II is the department head of the Journalism Department and we've been told that he'll push her.

"I certainly hope so," was dd's response.

I'm hoping for more academic learning next semester. Even so, while she may not have learned much as far as composition this semester, there certainly were lessons learned.

1 comment:

Diane Allen said...


I'm so glad this was a good experience for you.