Upperclassmen turn to community colleges for summer enrichment

September 19, 2012 — by Nick Chow and McKenna Galvin
As the school year ends, juniors and seniors find themselves confronted with the decision over how to spend their summer vacations. While some opt for internships, travel or just staying at home, several upperclassmen continue their studies at local community colleges.
 
As the school year ends, juniors and seniors find themselves confronted with the decision over how to spend their summer vacations. While some opt for internships, travel or just staying at home, several upperclassmen continue their studies at local community colleges.
Popular choices for incoming seniors this year included American Government and Economics, both semester classes required for graduation. Completing these courses during the summer gives upperclassmen the opportunity to either take other classes or to take advantage of an extra free period.
 Senior Cody Cai attended a four-week American government class at West Valley College in order to have an extra free semester during the school year.
“There were several other students from our school in the class,” Cai said. “I took the class with a lot of my friends, which made it a lot more fun.”
High school students can concurrently enroll at local community colleges such as De Anza in Cupertino or West Valley in Saratoga, provided that they are at least 16 and in 11th or 12th grade. Students are limited to one course per quarter and given low priority registration. 
According to assistant principal Brian Safine, in years past, students could take two courses instead of just one, and if they were not yet 16, they could fill out a waiver. However, for the last two summers, students have been restricted to only taking one class. As a result, fewer upperclassmen are taking community college courses.
While some students do take courses such as Economics or Government, several upperclassmen take classes that the school does not offer, such as Multivariable Calculus.
“In the past, for example, students have taken business courses or maybe some programming courses we don’t have here,” Safine said. “In some cases, that can be a visual art or an applied art, but for the most part students enroll in something at the community college that we don’t offer here as a way to enrich themselves.”
Some upperclassmen, however, elected to take courses that the school does offer during the summer to reduce their school course loads. Senior Madison King took Biology at De Anza so she could learn the material in both AP Biology and AP Physics without overloading herself senior year.
King found her class to be significantly easier than some of her high school classes.
“I’m not saying the class is a cakewalk, but it’s far from challenging,” King said of her Biology class. “Most of the people from our school who took the class ended up with an A+.”
Cai, meanwhile, found his government class to be more challenging.
“I would say the West Valley class is a lot harder than the school’s equivalent,” Cai said. “In the long run, however, it is worth it because now I have a free period for a whole semester.”
Costs varied depending on the class taken and campus, however generally totalled to about $100-$150 for tuition, parking permits, textbook rental or purchase and other fees.
Both seniors found several differences between their high school and community college courses.
“We were only given one homework assignment for the whole four weeks, and our grade mostly depended on how well we did on the two quizzes, midterm, essay and final,” Cai said. “This gave me a different mindset when approaching the class because from day one I couldn't rely on homework assignments to help me practice the materials.”
Safine believes that community college courses are an effective way for students to augment their learning during the summer.
“If [students] are taking something that we don’t offer here, we think that it’s a very appropriate use of summertime,” Safine said.
Students agree that community college courses are worth the time and effort.
“The professor was funny and nice, and I was able to learn about a subject I’m interested in without overloading myself,” King said. “I’m definitely glad that I decided to take the class.”
 
 
 
 
 
 
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