5 Tips for Getting Ahead in High School

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5 Tips for Getting Ahead in High School
We take a look at the various ways high school students can get a leg up on higher education while they are still in high school.
While most students anticipate summer break as a time to let down and recharge, others spend the summer months planning ways to get ahead during the next academic year. For those over-achievers, there are many options to choose from, between summer school opportunities and accelerated programs once the regular school year rolls around. If you are a student looking for fast-track opportunities, or a parent of one of those ambitious students, we have the tips you are looking for to get a step up on the high school years.
Advanced Placement
This tried and true program offers high-pressure demands and challenges comparable to a college-level course. So why undertake Advanced Placement classes in high school? According to the Princeton Review, Advanced Placement, also known as AP, offers a myriad of benefits to high school students, including:
  • The ability to pick and choose the subjects for acceleration
  • The chance to impress prospective colleges
  • The opportunity to earn college credits while still in high school
Currently, there are more than 30 AP subjects available, although the options may vary from high school to high school. If you excel at writing, an AP English course may be the perfect choice. Math gurus may prefer an AP math class, while aspiring scientists can find AP courses in biology, chemistry or physics. Even history buffs will find a variety of options in AP world and American history, government or other classes.
Advanced Placement courses offer the ability to take an exam near the end of the school year. Students that score high enough on the test may earn college credits for their work. While there is a charge for the examination, it is typically significantly less than the comparable cost of the credits. However, it is important to note the scores required by colleges in order to earn that credit. While some schools offer full credit with an examination score of three out of five, some schools require a minimum score of four to offer that credit.
Dual Enrollment
Another option for getting a leg up is a dual enrollment program that allows a student to earn college credit while still in high school. However, unlike Advanced Placement courses, dual enrollment classes are taught by college professors. Classes may be held at the high school or college campus, and may take place during the regular school day or during evening and weekend hours. According to the website for John Tyler Community College, eligible students are generally juniors or seniors have met prerequisite requirements set by the specific community college.
If dual enrollment sounds like the right path, it is important to carefully examine the program to ensure credits will transfer to a variety of institutions. While credits earned in dual enrollment programs usually transfer to the college offering the program, students may want to ensure the credits easily transfer to other two- and four-year schools as well. Available courses will also vary from location to location, so students need to contact the college or high school to find out the specific opportunities in dual enrollment that are currently available.
International Baccalaureate
Also known as IB, the International Baccalaureate is a relatively new program for U.S. high schools. The program was originally established in Geneva, Switzerland in 1968, as a way to immerse high school students in a truly international education program. According to the IB website, IB is a non-profit educational foundation designed to prepare students for life in a global community. The program currently operates in more than 3,600 schools in 145 countries around the world.
High school students that enroll in the Diploma Program enter a rigorous academic curriculum that prepares them for college and beyond. Colleges that recognize the IB program may allow students to earn college credits toward their diploma while they are still in high school. In addition, the comprehensive program that includes six subjects and at least two languages prepares students for college courses and may give them a leg up with college admissions boards.
Summer School
Another option for students that want to get ahead during the summer months is a selection of summer classes offered by their own high school. Traditionally seen as remedial options for struggling students, many high schools also offer accelerated courses for students that want to shorten the time needed to earn a high school diploma. According to the website for Excel High School, courses may also be available online for students unable to attend their high school campus regularly during the summer months.
Depending on the high school or online institution, courses may include core subjects like math, science and English. Electives might also be included in the curriculum, in subjects like psychology, computer or a foreign language. Students that take classes at their high school will need to adhere to the strict class schedule, while online students may enjoy more flexibility in their scheduling and their studies.
Summer School at a College Campus
One final option for ambitious high school students might be summer school classes on their local college campus. One college that offers such a program is Duke University in North Carolina, which offers students the ability to live on the campus for four weeks while participating in college-level courses. According to the Duke website, students enjoy the dual benefits of experiencing college life while earning credits toward their future degree.
No matter what, where and how high school students might want to learn, there are plenty of opportunities to get ahead during the high school years. From summer options to accelerated programs, students who are motivated may earn early high school and even college credits before they receive their high school diploma.

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