The opportunity for earning college credits while in high school is an incredible one. There are many benefits to be had, especially if you have access to a top college to earn credits before graduating high school. These schools are highly accommodating to their pre-college clientele, enabling them to begin working towards their degrees even before they have high school diplomas. Like anything else, though, there are potential drawbacks to this approach. One of the big ones has to do with time management. The high school years are busy anyway, so when you add college courses to the mix, things can get a bit hectic, to say the least. With this in mind, our editors have prepared a list of ten essential strategies for high schoolers looking to manage their busy schedules while earning college credits.
1. Consider Dual Enrollment
Dual enrollment is one of the most popular ways for high school students to earn college credit, and for a good reason. Sometimes referred to as concurrent enrollment programs, these options enable you to kill two birds with one stone, so to speak, by taking classes that count for high school and university credit. Dual enrollment programs vary by school. Some require students to attend classes on campus while others allow them to take courses at their high schools or even online.
The best dual enrollment programs are accredited by the National Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships (NACEP). To find out about dual enrollment programs available in your area as well as eligibility requirements, speak to your high school counselor.
2. Opt for Summer Classes or Programs
If you don’t like the idea of trying to tackle college-level coursework during the academic year, consider using the summer months as a time for getting ahead on your college coursework. Doing so can help you focus on your high school studies while school is still in session and then transition to university studies after classes let out for the summer. While this strategy doesn’t leave much room for a break from your studies, it can help you prevent burnout by trying to tackle too many things at once.
If you opt for this route towards college credit in high school, you may find yourself with several options for summer classes, as colleges and universities have different ways of offering these courses. Some residential summer programs require students to attend campus classes or even live on campus for a period of time. Other schools offer their summer courses online or via a nearby satellite campus.
3. Prioritize Extracurriculars
Extracurriculars are beneficial for many reasons, and colleges agree. Admissions counselors at top colleges and universities around the country love to see well-rounded students who have participated in clubs, sports, student government, and the like. Having said that, there’s only one of you, so don’t spread yourself too thin. If working on your college credits during high school is something that’s important to you, you may have to choose a few extracurricular activities that you care the most about. And don’t worry—you can always explain this decision-making process on your college application essay.
4. Schedule Time to Recharge
Many high school students mistake time management for a strict regimen consisting of nothing but work. While it’s true that you will have to work harder than your peers if you want to earn college credits before finishing your high school classes, it doesn’t have to be a torturous exercise in self-deprivation. In fact, this tactic could actually backfire and result in burnout. We all need rest and relaxation to function optimally, so consider this a part of the process. Choose one night a week or an entire day over the weekend, and take a brain break by doing something low-key and enjoyable. Whether it’s a social event or binge-watching a favorite show, you’ll return from the activity recharged and ready to tackle your next high school (or college!) assignment.
5. Build A Support System
Not all high school students have the same mindset, let alone the same goals and aspirations. Some of your friends may not understand why you choose to spend your Friday nights studying for a test when the material isn’t even required. That’s ok. Surround yourself with people who do get it. You’ll need the support and encouragement when things get tough. Teachers, counselors, coaches, and parents all make good sounding boards and leaning posts if and when you feel stressed or overwhelmed.
6. Create a Designated Workspace
Whether you’re working on high school or college assignments, a dedicated place to study is essential to productivity. This is particularly true if you’re taking online classes or do most of your school assignments at home as opposed to in class or at the library.
To designate a workspace in your home, choose an area that’s clean, quiet, and clutter-free. The fewer distractions, the better! This could be a desk in your room, the kitchen table, or an outdoor patio, for instance. If you choose a common room of your home, make sure everyone else in the house knows it’s off-limits during your study sessions.
7. Exercise and Mind Your Nutrition
While most of the work that goes into earning college credits during high school will be accomplished mentally, that doesn’t mean you should neglect your physical health and wellbeing. The body and mind are connected, so what affects one will inevitably affect the other, for better or worse. If you want to be at the top of your game academically, you need to take care of yourself by eating nutritious foods and getting plenty of exercise. This will help with energy levels as well, so you won’t find yourself too exhausted to write that paper that’s due soon. Need a simple hack to get started? Replace one snack or meal a day with a salad or other veggie-packed food, and strive for a 15-min walk or run three times a week. Then, work your way up from there until you’re feeling your best.
8. Avoid All-Nighters
One of the biggest mistakes busy high school students make while enrolling in college classes is screwing up their sleep schedules with excessive late-night studying. While this strategy may be well-intentioned, it almost always backfires. We get it. When you’re overwhelmed with both your typical courses plus those that demand a college-level effort, it’s tempting to try to squeeze as many hours of study time into the day as possible. The fact is, though, that sleep is necessary for performance at any level. It’s essential for clear thinking and optimal energy, which is exactly what you’ll need to pull off earning college credits while still in high school!
9. Put Down Your Phone
Everyone is glued to their phones these days, not just teens. If you’re trying to get ahead on your college studies while still enrolled in high school, though, this is a distraction you just can’t afford to have right now. Whatever it takes to ensure you have some solid phone-free study time, do it. Let your friends and family know what your study schedule looks like, so they won’t expect a text back during those particular hours. Shut the phone off or toss it in a drawer until you’ve finished your assignments for the day.
10. Focus on the Finish
When things get hard, it’s easy to give up if you’ve lost sight of the end goal. It’s like running a race. If you can’t see the finish line, it’s tempting to stop the moment you begin to feel tired. As soon as you turn a corner and see that the end is in sight, though, you get an instant boost and find you have what it takes to push through to the end. When it comes to achieving your academic goals, you’ll want to keep your eyes on the prize.
Here’s one way to do so: Add up the total number of credits you’ll earn at the end of the semester, and write this number on a bulletin board or the refrigerator. Use It as a visual reminder of the finish line ahead. Of course, there are other ways to keep your goals in sight. The takeaway here is to keep a reminder close by of the reason you’re working so hard so that you won’t feel tempted to throw in the towel when you feel tired or discouraged.
The tips above are strategies we believe will yield positive results as you strive to complete high school and college-level work. That doesn’t mean you have to try to implement them all at once, though. Choose a few that resonate with you and give them a try. Once you begin to see improvements, you can add more to your toolbox. The key is to discover the right combination of tools and techniques that will help you with earning college credits.
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