Get a leg up on college studies and IT careers while still in high school

Over the past 10 years or so, I've been helping out my alma mater by conducting three or four student interviews each spring. It gives applicants a chance to interact with an alumnus, and the in-person interview allows me to provide such additional insight and intelligence to the admissions office (and the local Princeton of Austin club) as I can about prospective students' backgrounds, interests, and accomplishments. In addition, I've been talking to my sister as her oldest is finishing up her senior year in a Fairfax County high school and preparing to head off to college next fall.

Somewhere along that twisty way, I've learned that high school juniors and seniors can sign up for and take courses at their local community colleges, earning college credit (and hours toward high school graduation at the same time) while also qualifying for a substantial discount on classes. It's an impressive savings compared to what they'd have to pay if registered and attending that community college as a full- or part-time student after earning a high school diploma.

This also turns out to be a great way to establish credibility as a future college student, by taking and passing college courses while still in high school. Most of the Princeton applicants I've interviewed had taken at least one or two such classes en route to finishing high school, along with a veritable plethora of advanced placement (AP) classes, which also provide some college-level training while preserving a more typical high school classroom experience. The average Princeton applicant in my personal experience will usually have taken and completed at least 5 or 6 such classes before finishing high school, with some exceptional candidates completing somewhere between 10 and 12.

Likewise, I've come across one or two outstanding students who have taken and completed as many as half-a-dozen community college courses before they picked up their high school diploma. My niece just found out she has the option of signing up for and taking an intensive online class at her local community college (Northern Virginia, or NOVA), which will enable her to graduate one month before her peers who elect to finish out the normal in-class curriculum. My good friend and co-author, Earl Follis, saw his daughter finish high school here in Williamson County mid-semester in her senior year. Again, it was thanks to a combination of online and community college courses that enabled her to meet classroom hours and subject coverage requirements well in advance of a "normal" graduation schedule.

The moral of this story is that high school students can save time and money, and earn college credits, while still in high school. Surely, this is a potent enough combination to give both high school (and future college) students and their parents plenty of incentives to investigate further. It's worth any savvy student's time to learn more about the options available to them to accelerate learning and get some college level classwork out of the way en route to high school graduation. Not every student is motivated or mature enough to even want to graduate early, or try to get far enough ahead on college graduation credits to skip a full year of school. Those who are, however, will find their chances of college admission enhanced by such coursework while still in high school, with a potentially lighter workload in college than peers who don't follow this route.

For more information on these options, parents or students should touch base with their high school guidance counselors at the end of their sophomore or start of their junior years. It can't hurt to at least understand what options might be available, and at what kinds of costs, to enable students to fold college level classes from local community colleges into their more typical and standard high school curricula. It's probably also a good idea to identify and touch base with the community college (or colleges) affiliated with your local school system (or private school, if applicable) to understand the options available from their side as well.

Overall, this can result in a better high school experience for students with the added benefit of providing more incentives to continue on to and complete college, and a better profile for students trying out for more elite public and private schools. And because many of the eligible classes pertain to information technology, with offerings that include the CompTIA holy trinity (A+, Network+, and Security+), plus basic Microsoft and Cisco certs (MCSA and CCENT/CCNA are all common options), interested students who don't have strong IT programs at their high schools can get a leg up on IT training, skills, and knowledge. THAT's what I call a win-win situation!

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About the Author

Ed Tittel is a 30-plus-year computer industry veteran who's worked as a software developer, technical marketer, consultant, author, and researcher. Author of many books and articles, Ed also writes on certification topics for Tech Target, ComputerWorld and Win10.Guru. Check out his website at, where he also blogs daily on Windows 10 and 11 topics.