Senior thrives in Middle College

January 19, 2010 — by Arnav Dugar and David Eng

Steve Chang partakes in nearly every activity one would expect of a 17-year-old with the exception of one—high school.

No, Chang is not a high school dropout, nor is he an early graduate. While many of his former classmates roam the halls of Saratoga High as seniors, Chang takes classes at West Valley Community College as part of their Middle College program.

This branch of schooling deviates from the typical path students follow to higher education but offers several attractive benefits.

Instead of devoting four years to sometimes rudimentary high school courses, middle college students gradually amount college credits, giving them a head start toward earning an undergraduate degree and a real-life exposure in a more rigorous college environment—not to mention that more than three-fourths of the student body are girls, according to Chang.

Chang said he personally was not motivated to excel in the atmosphere at Saratoga High and it “didn’t make [him] feel the need to put an effort in schoolwork.”

Taking into account the advantages of a new program and his previous experiences here, Chang made his transfer at the beginning of this school year from the school system that had taught him for his whole life.

Chang recalls his first day at Middle College vividly. After all, he was one of only two students from Saratoga High entering the program and he didn’t know anybody there.

“It was difficult adjusting for the first week, but after that it was very easy to adapt to and enjoy,” he said.

However, Chang’s time at Middle College system has not detracted from his social life.

“I’ve made a lot of new friends both in an out of school,” said Chang. “Having so much extra free time, I’ve gotten to know a lot of people outside of school.”

In addition to utilizing leisure time to meet new people, Chang also enjoys the added control he has over his new life.

“I like that I have total control over my schedule,” Chang said. “There’s no set amount of time I am required to be on campus other than for my high school classes.”

By these high school classes, Chang is referring to required units of core history and English classes that he must have in order to graduate. Outside of those two, Middle College students select a few out of the wide spectrum of courses offered at West Valley. Chang opted to also take a math class and a ceramics class, both of which he enjoys.

Chang said even though the professors in Middle College are knowledgeable, they aren’t quite as easy to find and talk to as high school teachers. In order to talk to one of his lecturers, Chang must go in during set office hours, similar to the tutorial period, or arrange special appointments.

When the time comes to apply for colleges, Chang will be ready highlighting the fact that his counselors are experienced with transferring students to major colleges.

“There is also a ‘transfer day’ when many major colleges come to answer questions and give out important information for both transferring students and freshmen applicants,” he said. This is advice that may not necessarily be accessible to the typical high school student.

Thinking back, Chang does not regret his decision to attend Middle College.

“In addition to teaching me independence and responsibility, Middle College has also showed me what college classes are like and what the college environment is like,” he said.

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