Examine Course Options Early to Plan for College


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Long before a student reaches high school, it is critical to understand what courses are necessary for college admission. Experts say students who seek out challenging classes and nontraditional options, such as online courses, have a leg up when it comes to college readiness.

However, parents must also consider where a child "fits" within course levels, so that a student isn't faced with insurmountable challenges.

"You don't want to accelerate students to the point where they are going to fall later," says Nancy Caggia, a Cary parent and N.C. Association for Gifted and Talented board member. "You don't want a gap in knowledge."

Rebecca Garland, chief academic officer of the N.C. Department of Public Instruction, speaks to course rigor in mathematics, a topic that stumps many parents: "In terms of mathematics, I think it's important that students have a rigorous course in math ... but also that the choice is based on where students are functioning and not on a social decision."

New mathematics testing through the SAS Education Value-Added Assessment System (EVAAS) for grades K-12 helps teachers and parents better understand math abilities.

It's important to think about math and science pathways starting in elementary school, since these areas can create a college admission problem for many students. Most colleges also require at least two years of a foreign language, and some require three or more.

Garland says North Carolina's recently revamped core curriculum, which has changed content across all core subjects, is more rigorous and designed to align with other states' curriculum. The N.C. State Board of Education also instituted policies that encourage online learning for high school students and allow students to place out of high school subjects by demonstrating mastery.

"One of the things that is most important is course selection. Know what courses are available and what courses might be best for your student," says Cheryl Robinson, a counseling specialist for Charlotte-Mecklenburg County schools.

Middle school course selection

Middle school students can take courses for high school credit, and grades for these courses are not included in the student's high school grade point average. Some of these courses are offered online, while others are available at some middle schools. If students fail the course, that information also appears on their high school transcript but is not factored as a grade.

"I think taking middle school courses for high school credit helps students have a feel for what high school courses are going to be like," Robinson says.

The board's new policy on demonstrating mastery allows students to place out of high school subjects in core areas. The details of this new policy have not yet been established and may vary by district, so this is a question for school counselors.

Knowing a student's career path is helpful, but not always clear. "Some of them know exactly what they want to do and the other 60 percent, they have no idea," says Karen Meadows, supervisor of elementary and middle school counseling in Guilford County. She suggests students attend career fairs and explore career clusters in online videos at school or home.

Caggia encourages parents to start thinking, and talking, about college early, and suggests parents help children explore their interests at young ages.

During middle school, students develop a four-year plan for their high school curriculum. Once a four-year plan is in place, be sure to revisit it, since your student's goals or the course requirements may change, says Fredricca Stokes, supervisor of high school counseling in Guilford County.

Course levels and grade point average

Colleges typically require specific high school GPA ranges. High school course levels generally include academic, honors and advanced placement — with honors and AP courses providing more points toward a GPA than academic courses. Students receive the most points for an A in a high-level course.

"If available, college-bound students should begin to take honors and AP courses in the ninth grade and continue to challenge themselves throughout high school. However, there is not a 'one size fits all' answer to this question," Robinson says.

Dibrelle Tourret, executive director of academically gifted and district coordinator of AP/IB (International Baccalaureate) programs for Guilford County, says she sees competitive seniors in Guilford County take five or six AP courses, but some students take up to 11 or more.

She advises her students to "take the most rigorous coursework available to you that is at your level of comfort, or just beyond your comfort level. Push yourself, but you have to find your fine balance and don't want to get a D in an AP class."

When looking at course selection, remember to check to be sure a student is also meeting the state high school graduation requirements.

Program options

Students can apply to a wide range of school programs, and enrollment procedures vary, with some programs filled by lottery and others through application or by a student's residence. Options include:

 Early College – A national program designed to offer low-income students and first-generation college-goers an opportunity to earn a high school degree and up to two years toward a bachelor's degree — tuition-free. Other students can also apply. North Carolina has nearly 80 early colleges. Wake County has two: Wake Early College of Health and Science and Wake N.C. State University STEM Early College High School. The Josephine Dobbs Clement Early College High School is in Durham.

Dual Enrollment – Partnerships between colleges and high schools where high school students enroll in college courses and earn credit after completion. Often students who have exhausted the high school classes available in their interest path apply for these college classes. Courses must be approved by the high school as well as the college and can be taken as distance education online courses or on a college campus.

Career and College Promise – Offers N.C. high school students who maintain a B average and meet eligibility requirements an opportunity to pursue a college career at no cost in cooperation with community colleges. Students can earn a credential, certificate or diploma in a technical career or a high school diploma, and two years of college credit in four to five years through innovative cooperative high schools.

Online education – North Carolina Virtual Public School options are increasing, since this is viewed as a way to stay globally competitive in the future.

International Baccalaureate – Designed for self-motivated, curious students who are willing to push themselves in all academic areas. IB programs are recognized as exceptional college preparedness programs. They may be offered as early as elementary school.

Charter and magnet programs – Public schools with varying academic themes and goals; course options often expand and extend the standard public school curriculum. Enrollment is usually by application and/or lottery, with some magnet school attendance based on a student's residence.

Stay active in the college planning process throughout high school and help your student understand the importance of course choices. When a student falls behind, it can be difficult to catch up.

Carol McGarrahan is a triangle area freelance writer and the mother of a high school junior who is still tinkering with that four-year plan.

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Forget tourist-filled museums, make your own memories with a photo scavenger hunt tour in Raleigh! On a Let’s Roam scavenger hunt, you and your team will work together to wander throughout...

Cost: $11

Where:
500 S Salisbury St
raleigh, NC  27601
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Sponsor: Let's Roam
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Farmers markets are essential to the livelihood of farmers and food producers and are exempt from the Governor's Stay at Home Order (page 6). Farmers markets offer an efficient way for residents to...

Cost: free

Where:
Holly Springs Cultural Center
300 W. Ballentine St.
Holly Springs, NC  27540
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Sponsor: Farmers Market Coordinator
Telephone: 919-567-4010
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  Meet at the Waterwise Garden (first parking lot on right) Join our bird enthusiast, Vernon, for an easy walk while looking and listening for our feathered friends. Discover...

Cost: FREE

Where:
Lake Crabtree County Park
1400 Aviation Pkwy.
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Sponsor: Lake Crabtree County Park
Telephone: 919-460-3355
Contact Name: Carol Cunningham
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PARENTS JOIN OUR DHHS APPROVEDCPR/AED & First Aid Certification ClassesFoster parents are required to be CPR & First Aid certified. Parents, bring your child to class with you. Children 10 years...

Cost: 50-80

Where:
Holly Springs, NC
1001 Silverstone Way
Holly Springs, NC  27540
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Sponsor: Save A Life Now Training Center LLC
Telephone: 919-215-6942
Contact Name: Valentina Cordoba
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PARENTS JOIN OUR DHHS APPROVEDCPR/AED & First Aid Certification ClassesFoster parents are required to be CPR & First Aid certified. Must register in advance. Space is limited. Parents, bring your...

Cost: 50-80

Where:
Holly Springs, NC
1001 Silverstone Way
Holly Springs, NC  27540
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Sponsor: Save A Life Now Training Center LLC
Telephone: 919-215-6942
Contact Name: Valentina Cordoba
Website »

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Calling all Black tech leaders and visionaries! Are you looking to spur future collaborations, discover new business and career opportunities, and invest in this community? Join us for T.H.E. State...

Cost: Varies

Where:
Durham Convention Center
301 W Morgan St
Durham, NC  27701
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Contact Name: Tarryn Henry
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Amongst the ancient oak trees is the heart of Raleigh. We'll help you see the forest for the trees and all its magic splendor. Tourist, local, or new to town, this is a lively small group activity...

Cost: $11

Where:
Downtown
500 S Salisbury St
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Sponsor: Let's Roam
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: Kelly
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Kindermusik is a research-based early childhood curriculum that includes 45-minute classroom lessons with materials and resources that encourages parental involvement . Research has linked...

Cost: $70/month

Where:
Hope Community Building
2080 E Williams St
Hope Community Building, Fuquay Varina Room
Apex/Holly Springs, NC  27539
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Telephone: 191-990-25432
Contact Name: Leigh Hamm
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Live online classes for kids - FREE! Kids and families can join our online classes from home while school is out. Our special guests teach kids about art, medicine, music, cooking, science and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Online at your Home
265 Cambridge Ave #60923
Palo Alto, NC  94306
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Sponsor: ActivityHero
Telephone: 800-437-6125
Contact Name: Mabelle
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Want to do more to help out your community park? Do you like history, the environment, agriculture, and/or the arts? Consider volunteering at Yates Mill! Join us anytime during the program time to...

Cost: FREE. Registration is not required.

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Telephone: 919-856-6675
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Sign up for a Raleigh scavenger hunt and put on your best Nick Cage impression as you seek out the national treasures hidden in Raleigh. Via an app, be guided through the cultural, historical,...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
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The 16th Annual (Virtual) Beaver Queen Pageant, Beavers in the Stream! The Beaver Queen Pageant is the Triangle’s own special mix of folly, pageantry, and humor. Contestants take on beaver...

Cost: free

Where:
Online
, NC


Sponsor: Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association
Telephone: 919-423-1502
Contact Name: Rachel Cohn
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We invite all Triangle youth between the ages of 8 thru 17 with a sincere interest in the Performance Art of Magic to join Magic Youth Raleigh! This youth program teaches magic history and theory,...

Cost: $35 per Student

Where:
New Horizons Fellowship
820 E. Williams St.
Apex, NC  27502
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Sponsor: The International Brotherhood of Magicians
Contact Name: Roger Way
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The Beaver Queen Pageant is the Triangle’s own special mix of folly, pageantry, and humor. Contestants take on beaver personalities and compete for the title of Beaver Queen with their fashion,...

Cost: free

Where:
Online
, NC


Sponsor: Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association
Telephone: 919-698-9729
Contact Name: Rachel Cohn
Website »

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River Jam at the U.S. National Whitewater Center brings together live musical performances throughout the year to a one-of-a-kind outdoor venue, right in the middle of the world’s largest...

Cost: $6

Where:
USNWC
5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy
Charlotte, NC  28214
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Sponsor: USNWC
Telephone: 704-391-3900
Contact Name: Jenny Hill
Website »

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