Since 2018, WCHS students have been able to complete their last two years of high school at Montgomery College under the Early College Program. With this program, students are exposed to a new environment that gets them ready for college and possibly their future career–along with over 200 classes that are more likely to suit their interests.
While it can be hard to imagine leaving high school only two years in, the Early College program at Montgomery College has lots to offer. Students not only benefit academically, but they can also discover more ways to grow as people. Students are given the chance to meet other MCPS students with similar interests and have a taste of what the college experience is like without having to let go of their high school lives too soon.
If students are thinking about applying to this program, they are given options for a unique assortment of career pathways at three different campuses in Montgomery County. Under each pathway is a list of courses that are required for each track. The selection of courses is very similar to high school, but students can choose a pathway that suits their own interests.
For example, there are pathways for science, engineering and business at the Rockville campus. Some examples of more exclusive pathways include nursing, elementary and special education and surgical technology which can be taken at the Germantown and Takoma Park campuses.
WCHS sophomore Melissa Goldstein has considered marine biology at the Takoma Park campus, as a possible future career and sees the program as the perfect opportunity to finally connect her interests to her schoolwork.
“Getting into the program would be an amazing head start into the career,” Goldstein said. “As marine biology is a competitive field, the program would help me stand out against others who are competing for a job.”
This opportunity allows students to explore the freedoms of college, but also still feel comfortable living at home along with participating in their own high school events. At each Montgomery College campus, class sizes are much smaller and more focused than those at a regular public high school. Classes run on a half-day schedule, and the ratio of teachers to students is 1 to 17, making the instruction more individualized.
WCHS senior Cyrilia Williams is currently enrolled in the Biological Sciences Program at Montgomery College. One of her friends introduced her to the program and she was intrigued, but did not know if it was the right fit for her.
“I’m learning more but it’s a lot of self-teaching,” Williams said. “We learn a lot more because it’s college. Montgomery College is more fast-paced, and every day there is a new topic.”
Even for students unsure of what they want to do in the future or what they enjoy yet, this program is the perfect space for experimentation. The program focuses on common but competitive careers to help get students ready for the real world.
By attending the Early College Program, students have a greater variety of courses on their transcripts and can even transfer some of their credits when they pursue a four-year degree.
WCHS sophomore Jahlana Stennett first heard about Early College through a friend that enjoyed being part of the program and recommended that she try it out too. Stennett chose the biological sciences pathway because she felt that it would help her start her career as a veterinarian.
“It definitely is a good way to start your career because it gives you a head start and some credibility so you can get a good job right after high school,” Stennett said.
In order to be accepted into the program, students are required to take the Accuplacer Test, an examination similar to the PSAT 10. By linking their PSAT 10 results to Khan Academy, students get to work on areas of difficulty as well as proficiency.
“I have been taking 20 minutes of SAT practice questions a day on Khan Academy to help me prepare for the Accuplacer as they are similar,” Goldstein said.
Even though applying for Early College may be a very difficult decision to make, it could be one students will not regret. Students can still be part of the WCHS family and learn from new opportunities and the college lifestyle.
“I miss my friends and having a nice schedule and spending more time with my teachers,” Williams said. “I have many things on my plate like school and tutoring, but it’s helping me learn that I need to manage my time wisely.”
For students looking into the Early College program, the only way to know if it is right for them is to try. While there are many steps that are part of the application process, getting to know more about the program allows students to reflect on their interests and what they want to do in the future.
“I think the best part of it will be graduating from it and going into a career that I’ve always dreamed of and transferring to a four year college,” Stennett said. “I can’t wait.”