Running Start In Washington State --- The Great Advantages it can Provide to Students

Sep 12, 2006

The Bottom Line Running Start is a program with many benefits for any student that decides to take it on.

Running Start

Always looking to give students an upper hand at attaining a top notch education, Washington State has a program called Running Start. Running Start is a program that provides high school juniors and seniors with the ability to enroll in college courses at Community and Technical Colleges. These courses run con-current to their high-school education, and serve as both high school and college credit at the same time. The ultimate goal is for students to get started on furthering their education at a younger age, and to give those people who are motivated enough an early step on reaching that college degree. It's a huge blessing, because while remaining a high school student, some can take the opportunity to spend time out of the high school classrooms, and in a collegiate setting. These classes are fully accredited, and count towards the final credit load needed to complete both a high school diploma and a college degree simultaneously.

What It Really Means:

For students who are planning on attaining a college education when they are finished with their secondary education, this gives them a huge head start (or a running start) towards gaining credits applicable to their given degree. By taking courses before attending a normal 2 or 4 year University, the student has the chance to get ahead of the curve, and will have less classes to take as a result. In even simpler terms, this means that for every college level class that the student takes during high school, it is one less class they have to take when they do finally enroll in their chosen college (post high school). This can knock full semesters off the tail-end of a college career, and can not only save time in the Educating system, but a lot of money in the pocketbook or on student loans. Think of it as a free and easy way for high school students to further challenge themselves be taking college level classes even while they are still a high school student.

How Does It Work?

When a student is interested in taking part in the Running Start program, they meet with their high school counselor and discuss what the requirements are going to be. Each school district allocates exactly what the applicable classes are going to be, and what can be taken on a college level that will serve as the same attainable credit on the high school level. Just as an example, someone in Running Start could take a college level writing class at a local community college, which would qualify for both the high school credit, and work towards counting at a 4-year institution that they plan on attending later. The list of possibilities is really immense, and it is all up to the student to find the right mix of classes that they will enjoy taking, and find to be a learning experience at the same time. The cap for credits during a quarter is 18 on the college level as part of Running Start, but it is heavily recommended to only go with 15 credits until you find you can handle the 18. They estimate that each credit in class is equal to 1 hour of work per week outside of the class. So if you are doing the 15 credits, you are looking at 45 hours of outside reading and homework.

What Are The Advantages To Participating in Running Start?

The first, and most obvious of the potential benefits, is that students can earn up to two full years of tuition-free college credit while they are still in high school. The classes are paid for by the school district, so the expenses that fall upon the student are just transportation, books, and extraneous course fees. This is a good deal if I have ever heard of one, and one that can set up a student to be finished with all of their schooling at a much younger age. For some students, the advanced courses available to them through college courses will prove to be the exact challenge that they have been looking for, and boredom in the high school classroom will become a thing of the past. Attending these college courses, students are also getting their first glimpse at the real world, and can serve as an additional benefit to when they go off to college after the high school graduation. Not only that, but because of the very flexible schedule offered on a college campus, there may be classes that better fit the parts of the day when a student will learn best. Being able to jump into a mature setting like this earlier in a students learning, can provide untold benefits both in the short term and the long term.

So, Is Running Start Really for Me?

When considering whether you should go into the Running Start program, and whether you want to get that head start on your college education, you should consider everything that it entails. The first and most important thing to some students, is that you will be spending far less time at your high school. Some students choose to take both high school and college classes (for instance high school in morning, and then college in afternoon), because it means they will get to see all of their friends during at least part of the day. This is a huge sacrifice for some students, because being on a college campus you will be putting yourself into a brand new environment, without the comfort of being surrounded by people you are familiar with. Transportation and the cost of books can be a potential pitfall as well, because as anyone who has attended college before can attest, college level books are not inexpensive. There is also the fact that a high school student will seem younger than most college students, but its not like you will be "outed", you will be just another student trying to expand their mind.

Keeping in mind that there are some disadvantages to attending classes through Running Start, it is also obvious that there are many potential benefits. If you decide to split your classes between high school and college, you could be receiving the benefits of both worlds, and still keep yourself involved in your high school activities. Also, just because you are doing running start does not mean you cannot still play sports for your high school. All students in Running Start remain enrolled at the high school, and are afforded the same opportunities as any other student in the school. If Running Start is something that does sound interesting, and you are going to be either a Junior or Senior in High School, set up a meeting with the high school counselor to discuss the requirements and possibilities with your situation. It could be the meeting that puts you ahead for the rest of your educational career.

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