Trying my hand at college courses

February 4, 2015


Courtesy of Clark Archive

GCC student studies for Chemistry test.

As I walked through the crowded corridors of the GCC main campus trying to reach my new class, a thousand thoughts raced through my mind. Going through my high school classes was one thing, but starting college classes was a completely different beast. I worried about the amount of homework assigned, how strict my professor would be, what the people actually going to college would think of me. Luckily, I learned that I was not alone

The process of taking college classes while enrolled in high school, commonly known as dual enrollment, is nothing new. Since 1985, high schools in Florida have offered this option for students to take college courses simultaneously with their high school enrollment. This system, however, has seen a large spike in availability and usage in the past decade. The National Center for Education Statistics reports that in the 2011-2012 school years, 82 percent of high schools reported that they had students enrolled in college classes in addition to their regular high school courses.

In addition, the report also states that 2 million students were reported to have taken dual enrollment courses during this time. “I think it’s a great system for students to use,” said junior Arin Hayrapetyan. Harapetyan has already taken a course at GCC during the summer and is currently taking his second course, Theater Arts 101. “The courses offered are very diverse, and it’s great to be in a class with college students and learn at a different level and pace,” Hayrapetyan said.

Hayrapetyan is one of a large handful of Clark students who is enrolled in a college course. I had found out about the courses offered while discussing college options with my counselor. Being told that I could take my college courses while still in high school would save me time and money, I decided to enroll in a Speech 101 class this past fall.

“Overall, it’s great because it really allows students to start their college careers a little earlier than they normally would,” said Speech 101 professor Jeff Smith. Smith says that he enrolls an average of four to five high school students in any of his five to six courses every session.

Aside from being a great way to get through future general education courses quickly, taking dual enrollment classes also opens up new possibilities for learning new skills and pursuing careers, Smith said. “The system can really open students’ eyes on subjects and careers because it gives a goal beyond  high school boundaries,” Smith said.

The system can really open students’ eyes on subjects and careers because it gives a goal beyond high school boundaries

— Jeff Smith

Admittedly, I agreed. After a few awkward classes trying to accustom myself to the differences in requirements and the sometimes unnerving age gaps between the other students and me, I began to see things in a different way. Soon, I was able to deliver dazzling speeches and open discussions for both my classes and my personal life. I was amazed at how effective the class was at teaching me something I knew would be a valuable life skill.

Along with getting general education requirements taken care of, these dual enrollment courses gave new insight into the topics that they were teaching. “It was a different experience, to say the least,” said junior Armman Baghoomian. Baghoomian took a Music 101 course during the summer in order to complete his general education requirement for an art class. “Besides being an art G.E., though, the class really taught me to listen to music and to just see things in a whole new way,” Baghoomian said.

While going through the phases of my Speech 101 classes, there were many aspects of the class that seemed strange compared to the classes at Clark. The primary difference was in the lack of teacher supervision for my every action for the class. There were few, if any, homework assignments, and class attendance was not as absolute as in high school. This put an increased amount of responsibility on me as a student, as grades were primarily decided by tests, class speeches and class participation. With a scarce amount of homework and no significant consequence for missing class, the incentive to learn and be prepared for the class was placed primarily on me.

“The classes I take at GCC are so different than the classes I take here,” said senior Eliza Suluyan. Suluyan enrolled in a History of Rock Music course for the fall session. “It’s something I took because I really love rock music and wanted to learn more about it,” Suluyan said. “But what’s strange about the classes at GCC is that, unlike the classes I take at high school, these are completely optional and optimized to teach the student exactly what they wanted to learn.”

Suluyan also said that the course is more difficult due to the increase in responsibility in the students, as attendance plays a significant role in a student’s grades. “It’s all up to me whether I come to class or not, and those consequences weigh only on me, so I do think these classes teach you to be a bit more mature with your choices,” Suluyan said.

The experience wasn’t entirely a positive one, however. I found myself constantly struggling to keep myself on task and adapting to having both college classes and high school classes. There were many times where I would plan my week out only to remember that I’d have a huge assignment due in only a few days.

I wasn’t the only one having difficulty adapting either. Suluyan said that the class was more demanding than any class she’d taken at Clark. “In terms of focus and responsibility, college classes really make you buckle down on your work, so you’ve really got to know what you’re getting into,” Suluyan said.

Even putting aside the work involved with the classes, being enrolled in a college class gave off an entirely different vibe. Taking classes in a college environment meant learning with a wider age group, as the other students varied from recent high school graduates to parents of high school graduates. Being the youngest one in my class by at least three years didn’t help me to feel any more at ease.

Baghoomian said he experienced similar anxieties. “I was worried that the other students would look down on me because I was so young and, while I know that didn’t really happen, the anxiety never really disappeared,” said Baghoomian.

The college environment wasn’t all dreadful anxiety, though. Merely walking through GCC’s large halls and exploring the large library made me feel smarter and more mature. Being exposed to such a different aura made me feel profoundly different. Senior Diana Shamiryan, who took anthropology at GCC, says she had a similar experience while attending classes at the college. “It was such an eye opening experience,” she said. “It really gave me this proactive feeling.”

Shamiryan also said that the campus food, grand hallway and beautiful fountain were a plus to taking classes at the GCC campus. “If you ignore some of the strange people that also take classes there, the school really gives off a positive vibe,” Shamiryan said.

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