Oct. 28, 2010By Stephanie Choate Observer staff
The first week of classes at Florida International University in Miami was a breeze for Lyndon native Sarah Stenson.
Stenson had already taken three college courses while she was in high school, which helped her know what to expect and how to handle it.
“The beginning of classes would not have gone by easy if I hadn’t done it,” 18-year-old Stenson said. “I knew what to expect coming in, so I wasn’t so nervous. I wasn’t freaking out as much as I would have been.”
Every Vermont high school student is entitled to one free college course at most schools in the state, including the University of Vermont, Champlain College and Community College of Vermont.
Students can earn college and high school credit, saving tuition money and getting ahead.
“I think it’s a tremendous help,” said Katie Mobley, associate director of the secondary education initiative at CCV. “It gives students a taste of the future.”
A college course can help students figure out if a certain major — or college in general — is right for them. It can motivate students to do better in high school, too.
“When you play a sport with someone more skilled than you, often your game raises a little,” Mobley said. “When high school students have a chance to be in a college environment and have rich discussions and see the dynamics that go on, it’s benefiting them in that experience and in what they take back to high school.”
Nichole Hathaway, who administers the program at UVM, said she usually suggests that students take a lower-level course, but she makes exceptions for academically advanced students. UVM offers summer, evening and online courses, which can fit in with a high school student’s schedule.
At CCV, students must first take the free 13-week course Introduction to College Studies. The course teaches skills that help students succeed in college, including time management, test-taking, stress management and applying for financial aid.
Stenson opted to take a medical terminology class, which helped her decide to become a nursing major. She liked the class so much that she and her mother decided to continue with college courses, taking an additional two classes.
“I really liked the idea of getting a jump-start on college,” Stenson said.