I'm a College Junior at 18, & Being Ahead of the Game is Definitely Worth It

Attending a dual-enrollment high school was probably the most difficult part of my teenage years. It consumed me to a point where, instead of doing normal teenage things like attending prom and football games, I was up all night and working on a bajillion projects – every single day.

What is dual enrollment, you ask? Well, dual enrollment is basically attending a high school where you take college courses alongside your high school courses. Half of my high school graduation requirements were done through classes at a community college that my high school had a partnership with. Not only did this allow me to complete high school in a rigorous manner, but I was also able to receive college credits I could transfer to my potential university.

Now, don’t get me wrong, dual enrollment doesn’t have to be so difficult. It’s definitely something anyone can conquer. The reason why it was so stressful for me was the fact that I pushed myself to receive two associate degrees during high school, which means I took a lot more college courses than what was required.

I thought, hey, if I have the opportunity to take college courses, why not make the most of it? I was convinced that if I just worked a teensy bit harder than I had to, at least I would be getting something positive out of the situation: entering college with a junior class standing. In other words, I basically skipped two years ahead in life. Sounds pretty great, right?

Related: How to Handle the Pressures of Graduating Early, from Someone Who Actually Did It

Well, I’m not so sure. I mean, yeah, it gives me something to put on my resume and blah blah blah. I can show off at family events and my degrees can be out on display in our house. But once I focus on the more personal stuff, I tend to pick out a lot of negative things about my situation, especially from my first year of college.

People are constantly asking me whether dual enrollment, and ultimately becoming a junior at 18 was worth it. So, if you’re considering trying it out, or if you’re just curious, I’ve compiled a list of pros and cons I’ve taken away from my experience.

Pros

1. I now have two extra years to do whatever I want.

Technically, I’ve skipped two years ahead in life. I can double major with ease, and I can take more classes I’m interested in, which is super cool because college is all about experimentation and self discovery.

What I’ve decided to do though, is take a gap year before I attend graduate school. This gives me ample time to do things like build my resume and study for entrance exams, and I’ll still be a year ahead of the people my age, so I don’t need to worry about falling behind. So, if you think about it, dual-enrollment has actually given me the opportunity to relax and take my time, rather than rush.

2. It looks good on my resume.

Believe it or not, a lot of employers (and adults in general) find it impressive that I’ve completed so much education at a young age. Ever look for a job online and find the perfect one, only to realize you need to have a certain level of education? Yeah, me too. Fortunately, there's a lot of jobs that require at least an Associate's Degree – whenever I see that, I breathe a sigh of relief. It’s a really good feeling to know I have so many options before I even graduate college!

3. My tuition was just cut in half.

Yup, you heard me right. In dual enrollment, my high school in particular paid for my courses at the community college, so I basically completed half of college for free. Now that I’m attending a university, I’m so much more at ease knowing that my tuition is way cheaper than it could have been.

“UCLA is an expensive school – often easily estimated at 30K a year,” says Jasmine Gawra, an 18-year-old junior at UCLA. “I’m fortunate that I only pay that 30K twice. It’s crazy to think that if I spent four years at UCLA, I would have paid four times—the equivalent to a down payment on a house or some crazy high-end sports car.”

We all know how stressful college can be when it comes to tuition, and not receiving financial aid. So, like Jasmine, I’m pretty glad that I was able to save so much money.

4. I started my major early.

I have a lot of friends who complain about taking lower-division courses that have literally nothing to do with their interests, but that are required anyway. I got to take all of those lower-division courses during high school, so by the time I got to my university, I was able to solely focus on my psychology major because my credits transferred. And let me tell you, it’s a damn good feeling to wake up every day knowing you’re taking classes you actually want to take and that’ll be beneficial towards your career.

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Cons

1. Making friends can feel harder.

Personally, this was the biggest issue for me. When you enroll in college, everything is new and confusing and you don’t know anyone. That’s why universities have orientation for freshmen students – but I transferred in as a junior so I only connected with people I wouldn't get to spend time with regularly.

As an 18-year-old, I was placed in classes with people who were in their twenties or older, and it felt super hard to get to know them. As a student coming straight out of high school, this was really discouraging, and my first year in college was honestly really lonely.

2. University classes are way more difficult than what I took at community college.

Sure, I might have felt somewhat prepared for college, because my history with dual enrollment taught me all about how classes work, how I can leave for the restroom without asking, and how no one calls my parents if I skip class. There’s a catch, though: I’m now taking upper-division courses, and those are way more difficult than the lower-divisions I took at community college. They’re fast-paced and require a lot more work, which can be difficult to adapt to.

3. I have to think about grad school much earlier.

Oh man, this is so annoying and stressful. According to Prep Scholar, if you want to go to grad school right after graduation, you need to apply the beginning of your senior year. Since I did dual enrollment, I only had my junior year, AKA my first year at the university, to get to know professors for letters of rec, prepare for entrance exams, and earn a decent GPA. Oof, talk about excessive stress.

Realistically, this is simply not enough time, which is why I’m taking a gap year to prep for exams and build my resume.

4. My high school grades are part of my college GPA.

Remember that C you got in Calculus during junior year of high school? Yeah, well, that’s sticking with you forever. Generally, when high school students move to universities, their high school grades and GPA finally disappear and they get the chance to start fresh. Unfortunately, I had to keep my grades from when I was 15 on my transcript, but only for the community college courses taken. This is a real bummer, because what if I received grades that were pretty eh in high school, and improved immensely once I got to college? It doesn’t matter, my GPA won’t start fresh. All I can do is try to improve it. Excuse me while I go cry.

Wait. So… was it worth it, or not?

Based on my pros and cons, you can decide for yourselves if you think entering college as a junior is the best idea, because everyone is unique and has different goals. Personally, I’m super glad to have gone through with the dual enrollment experience. It helped me mature in ways that I wouldn’t have been able to if I didn’t take this opportunity.

Being an 18-year-old in upper division classes pushes me past my limits and encourages me to keep going through the hard times. Sure, there’s a plethora of stress and definitely some negatives that the situation has brought. But honestly, what is life without a couple of difficulties? No situation is perfect – in fact, a lot of the cons have actually brought out positives for me. For example, struggling to make friends caused me a lot of sadness and loneliness. But it actually brought me a lot closer to my family (I commute, so I see them a lot). Throughout high school I tended to rely more on my friends, so this was huge for me.

That’s the beauty of our world, that no matter how many negatives you will find in a situation, something good will always come out in the end. It’s what life is all about, so definitely try to give yourselves an extra push from time to time, because it will probably be worth it.

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