This fall, Quest Forward Academy Omaha launched a new and exciting pilot program that allows students to take college courses while in high school through Bellevue University at no additional cost to families. The timing is perfect. Our first full class of seniors is beginning the college application process and looking towards graduation in the spring.
Over the course of the year, 10 students participated in this program, six seniors and four juniors. Course offerings included composition, oral communication, art, college math, and graphic design. Students were excited for this opportunity for a number of reasons.
Head Start: Most students bound for a traditional four-year college degree know that they will be required to take general education courses as part of their graduation requirements. Taking a college class while in high school can be a way to get a head start in this process. Not only does this help students to feel prepared going to college, but it also can allow students to focus on major-specific classes a little sooner when they get to their post-secondary destination.
College Exploration: Taking college classes while in high school can be a way for a student to explore if the college is the best fit for the student. By attending the classes weekly and building relationships with professors, the student can gain a much deeper understanding of what it would be like to be a full-time student at that school than if they simply did a college visit. Furthermore, taking a college class can be a way for a student to gauge whether college in general is the right path for them. Jannice, the first in her family to attend college, commented that she was interested in this opportunity because she “definitely wanted to experience college and wanted to see how it was different from high school.” Students who are curious about college can try it out in a low-stakes environment by taking a class or two in high school.
Career Exploration: Students who are curious about different careers can sometimes find a way to explore that career through a college class. For example, this fall Jannice and Ozzy, two juniors, took Introduction to Drawing to explore two very different career aspirations. Ozzy dreams of being a tattoo artist someday and wants to improve his drawing skills. Jannice is interested in becoming a social worker or therapist. She can see herself incorporating art-based interventions into this future work.
Rigor: Sometimes students pursue college classes while in high school to increase the rigor of their course load. Robert is taking both Honors Senior English at Quest Forward Academy and College Composition 2 with Bellevue University this term. He told us that each class is challenging him in different ways. In his opinion, the Quest Forward Academy English class engaged him in more rigorous readings while the College Composition class has been more demanding in terms of the amount of writing. Together these two classes make for a challenging term guaranteed to prepare him for his first year of college.
Confidence: This leads me to the last point. Students who take college courses in high school can receive a boost of confidence if they have the support they need to be successful. Many of the students in the program said they were intimated to attend a college class for the first time. But, they were pleasantly surprised that they were both well-prepared by their time at Quest Forward Academy and well-supported in the process of navigating their first course. In addition to the ways he was academically prepared at Quest Forward Academy, Ozzy said, “QFA taught me the social skills to be successful. I learned how to ask questions and ask for help.” This ability to self-advocate and collaborate with the professor is one of the many positive outcomes of the habit-focused academic environment that Quest Forward Academy has nurtured.
Taking a college class while in high school can be an enriching experience for a variety of reasons. Offering this unique program to students is one of the many ways that Quest Forward Academy Omaha prepares students to be successful both in and out of high school.