Life of a Running-Starter | Column

High school is a difficult and chaotic period, and it only gets worse as junior and senior year commences. Sports, clubs, other extracurricular activities, AP/honors class, SATs, and college applications are just a few of the things that juniors and seniors these days have to juggle. Imagine adding college classes to the list.

Is that even possible for high schoolers to do with Washington state’s Running Start Program?

For those who are still hazy about what Running Start is, it’s a program that allows high school juniors and seniors to take classes at a community college to satisfy their high school credits for graduation. Running Start allows students to immerse themselves in college level courses (regardless of the “community college” label) and best of all, it’s free! We’re talking about free college here and almost all credits are transferrable to four-year institutions in state and even some out-of-state. Especially now, parents and students alike are trying their best to pay for college as tuition costs are skyrocketing.

If Running Start is a financially affordable way of receiving a post-secondary education, why doesn’t everyone do it?

There are a variety of factors that play a role in whether or not a student choses to partake in Running Start or not, and the greatest reason seems to be this: most students love high school too much to leave it.

In the wise words of Bothell High School senior Allie Sanchez, “I want the full high school experience.” Other students claim that AP (Advanced Placement) or IB (International Baccalaureate) will prove to be more beneficial to them as colleges nationwide accept those credits. However, community college credits say just as much as AP/IB credits do: “I go above and beyond to challenge myself.”

For me personally, the freedom of having a flexible schedule appealed to me, as I have a part-time job and other various extracurricular activities in the afternoon/evenings. After about 10 years of traditional six-hour school days, I wanted something different and Running Start provided for me that different aspect of schooling. Also, because a whole year’s worth of curriculum is packed into one 11-week quarter, college classes move at a quicker pace and require more hours dedicated to the class each week. I enjoy the rigor of the classes and I believe that those classes allow me to dip my feet into college life before I even officially start college.

Many of my peers are aware that I wish to attend college out-of-state and they ask me why I decided to do Running Start. I am fully aware that almost all of the institutions that I’ve applied to will not take my community college credits, but I didn’t do Running Start to receive an Associate’s Degree before I graduate high school or reduce the number of years I will attend college. I very much intend to attend college for four years. As of now, I’m simply enjoying the quasi-college life, finishing up the last of my high school requirements and most importantly, taking classes that I am interested in majoring in at no cost to me.

I recommend all students to take advantage of the Running Start Program. Community colleges provide a wide variety of resources to its students, and although taking classes with “old people” may seem nerve-wracking at first, the learning goes both ways; you learn some, they learn some. College is an inevitable step in life for many students, so why not take that running start to ready yourself for what’s yet to come?

Reporter intern Jane Baek is a student at Bothell High School and Cascadia Community College.


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