Despite the heavier workload, the benefits of dual-enrollment courses outweigh the hassles, local students and administrators say.
Senior Hannah Lynch, 18, is enrolled in two advanced-placement classes at Soddy-Daisy High School.
Dual-enrollment programs are classes offered to high school students and are available at the student's school (as in the case of advanced-placement courses) or on the campus of local colleges. Through completion of the course or after achieving a requisite score on a comprehensive exam, students gain both high school and college class credit. Most credits are transferable when the student graduates.
After taking two AP courses last year, Hannah enrolled in AP courses for calculus and English language and composition. With the combined credit she has accumulated, Hannah will enter Emory & Henry College in Emory, Va., one semester ahead of most freshmen.
Getting to this point wasn't always easy, she said.
"One challenge I had was adjusting to putting more hours into homework and studying," she said. "Studying for AP classes has to consist of more than just reading chapters or reviewing definitions."
Angela Cass is principal of Chattanooga State's Middle College, a 250-student program offering high school students a chance to work toward a college degree while still in high school.
Dual-enrollment programs like Middle College and AP courses ease students into college-level course work, Cass said.
"Making the transition from high-school courses to college-level courses is the biggest adjustment, how different the classes are and how many more study skills are needed," she said. "Students [at Middle College] study just as much as they would if they were in college. ... They all attend classes with college students, like regular kids."
Hannah said it was a major adjustment learning to keep up with the pace at which material is covered in her AP courses.
"A lot of information is given to you at one time constantly, not only during class interactions with the teachers but in the texts as well," she said. "Sometimes the notes I make for a chapter are almost as long as the chapter itself. It wasn't necessarily difficult to comprehend; it was just a larger amount of work to do at one time."
The immediate pressure of the heavier workload generally yields dividends for Middle College students, who usually graduate with an associate degree and a general education degree. About 90 percent of Middle College students continue their studies at four-year institutions.
For her part, Hannah said she feels better prepared for her first year at Emory & Henry than if she had stuck with standard course work in college.
"Take advantage of AP classes if your high school offers them," she said. "It gave me a better idea of the workload of a college class. I feel like I'm better prepared to handle many harder classes at one time now."
Kim Appeldoorn is a student at Center for Creative Arts.