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The Saratoga Falcon

The Saratoga Falcon

Dual studentship: a closer look at concurrent enrollment

Senior Casey Takahashi isn’t ditching cross country. She’s leaving practice 30 minutes early, but it isn’t because she’s a slacker. Rather, Takahashi, a team captain, is heading over to San Mateo College to take a night class — physics.
Takahashi’s physics class isn’t her only out-of-school class — she also takes multivariable calculus at Evergreen College on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. 
Takahashi would prefer to take classes at the school; however, SHS doesn’t have the classes she wants. In recent years, some students at Saratoga have petitioned for a Multivariable Calculus class, but to no avail. And while commuting to San Mateo and Evergreen is difficult, Takahashi said this was the only option that allowed her to continue with her extracurriculars and take the next-level classes in math and physics.
“I spend about six hours per week driving to my classes,” Takahashi said. “It’s convenient to find classes to fit my schedule, but commuting is very time-consuming.” 
More than 100 students each year complete course credits online and at community colleges like West Valley and De Anza.
 According to West Valley College multivariable calculus teacher Professor Rebecca Warecki, the number of high school students in her classes has increased by five to seven students in the past year. In one class, almost half of her students are from high school. 
Saratoga simply does not have the capabilities to offer these classes because of financial constraints, said assistant principal Brian Safine. However, college classes present good alternatives, Safine said, whether to take a class Saratoga doesn’t offer or to retake a course. 
The concurrent enrollment program is open to upperclassmen or students in the summer after their sophomore year. Colleges usually allow students to take up to eight units, which translates into about two classes. The school considers them to be 4.0 classes, but most colleges view them as AP/honors. 
While concurrent enrollment is a common option for students looking to branch out with different courses or who have run out of classes to take at Saratoga High, it can be a tough transition.
“Community college has a different teaching style,” Takahashi said. “Teachers don’t pay attention to whether you do your homework or not.”
Senior Akshay Madhani, who is taking multivariable calculus, said, “There’s a lot more freedom. [For example], you can walk out of a class to take a call whenever you want to.” 
Community college presents many other challenges as well. For example, Takahashi’s schedule prevented her from enrolling in local colleges, and she now struggles with fitting in her extracurriculars between long commutes. 
“I have Tuesday and Thursday classes, so I need to figure out how to get to [them] with cross country,” Takahashi said. 
In contrast, Madhani chose night classes to avoid as many conflicts with extracurricular activities as he could.
Student dynamics, pace and difficulty are other major differences between college and high school classes. Because community colleges are open to everyone over age 16, students can be of any age.
“I sit behind a 40-year-old man in class,” Madhani said. “That’s kind of weird.” 
He added that there was a greater emphasis on tests; in his multivariable calculus class, tests are worth two-thirds of his final grade.
But because of the competitiveness of his AP Calculus BC class last year, he said that so far the community college class seemed easier in comparison.
Community college classes also allow students to explore interests outside of school. For example, senior Rachel Perera chose to take nutrition because she hoped the class would discourage her unhealthy lunches at McDonald’s and Chipotle.  
“We’ve done nutrition diet analysis, which gives you a good idea of your health,” she said. “After just a week, I can see patterns in my eating habits, and I hope it’ll continue and I’ll be healthier as a result of this class.” 
Perera added that she would definitely recommend the concurrent enrollment program to anyone looking for more credits. 
“It’s independent study at its finest — a really unique and effective way to study,” Perera said.
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