5 Things to Know About Early College Programs

A high school junior enrolled in her school's early college program shares everything she's learned about the process of applying to a four-year college.

I am a high school junior enrolled in my school’s early college program. This means I’m accumulating enough credit hours through my local community college in order to graduate with my high school diploma and an associate degree at the same time. (Not all early college programs result in an associate degree; programs vary on the amount of credits their students can earn.)

I must admit, it is a pretty sweet deal. However, now that the process of applying to a university is upon me, I have found that there are so many challenges and insecurities that come with being a part of an early college program. Will my credits transfer? Do I apply as a freshman or a transfer student? Being caught in between the worlds of high school and college is a challenge that I have grown all too familiar with, and it has greatly complicated my college search. But fear not, fellow early college students—I am going to share everything I have learned thus far in the hopes of easing some of your anxiety about the process of applying to a four-year college.

1: You'll still be considered a college freshman

Most college admission pages will specify that even if you are enrolled in dual-credit courses at a collegiate institution, you will not be considered a transfer student. Each school will accept a different amount of transfer credits from its freshmen. For example, New York University accepts up to 32 credit hours earned by freshman applicants. Although you will still be considered a first-year student, if you have certain basic courses out of the way, you may find your way into more advanced courses or able to graduate early.

2: All of your credits may not transfer

No matter how many credit hours you have accumulated, it is extremely unlikely they will all transfer for two main reasons. The first is that schools often have a limit to how many hours will transfer, as I previously stated. The second is the course you earned credit for may not apply to the major you wish to pursue or even be offered at the school. In the state of Texas, the Texas Common Core Numbering System offers a comprehensive search engine that allows you to compare courses offered at lower institutions, such as community colleges, to four-year universities. This makes it simple to see which of your courses will transfer where, depending on what school you want to go to. For other states who may not have a convenient search matrix like this, you will have to search through the courses offered at either school and see which ones they have in common, or confirm what credits will transfer with an admission counselor.

Related: Early College: Not Your Average High School Experience

3: You need transcripts from high school AND college

It is very important to obtain transcripts from both your high school and your affiliated college when applying to a university. You cannot simply rely on your high school transcript to list certain courses as dual-credit. Make sure your desired university knows you’re the real deal!

4: D’s will not transfer

It is a widespread myth that universities simply accept transfer credits no matter the grade. However, D’s and F’s will not transfer in the wide majority of cases, so keep those grades up! There are very rare cases where a D might transfer if your GPA meets minimum requirements of the school.

Related: 6 Tips for Dealing With a Bad Grade

5: You should apply anywhere you want to!

Despite the challenges you may face transferring your credits, I strongly encourage you to not let it hinder your college search. Even if your dream school won’t accept all of your credits, they will see that you were a very hardworking student who took on high school and college at the same time. Being in an early college high school program is certainly no easy task, so your efforts are valued no matter what. You should pursue the degree you want even if you’ve taken courses that don’t fit the school’s requirements or your course work for your desired major. At the end of the day, it is about education in its purest form!

Find more tips and advice on early college programs right here on CollegeXpress!

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About Katelyn Landry

Hi! I am a 17-year-old aspiring writer and will be attending the University of Texas at Austin in the fall to major in Journalism. CollegeXpress has helped me so much in my postsecondary planning, so I am very happy to be writing for students like me! I love music, blogging, and ridiculous amounts of ramen noodles. I hope to move to New York City and continue writing in the areas of pop culture, politics, and social justice. Check out more of my writing here.


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