Early College Credit Paves the Way

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Transitioning from high school to college is a momentous time in students’ lives. Traditionally, it has presented itself as an opportunity for students to leave the carefully structured format of high school and exercise a greater sense of independence. At the same time, they begin to work toward their career goals.

However, what is to be said if a student makes significant strides in earning college credits before they even sit down in their first college classroom?

For young Izabel Vasquez, this is more than just a hypothetical situation—it’s a reality. Izabel is preparing to graduate from Harlingen High School South in May 2024, and she’ll do so with a significant head start on her college studies.

Izabel’s situation is a direct result of Texas Southmost College’s Dual Credit program in partnership with Harlingen CISD. This program allows high school students to earn early college credits, saving them time and money while also giving them the chance to enter college with credit hours already earned. However, Izabel will be Harlingen High School South’s first student to graduate as part of the program.

To her, the decision to become part of the dual credit program was easy. “I’ve always managed to excel in academics, and since I was already going to be taking advanced classes during my freshman year, the dual credit program seemed like a natural choice,” she said. “I was limited to just two classes as a freshman, but I passed them and just kept going.”

Students who qualify for the program can enroll in college courses while technically still working through the normal high school course load. The college courses they may enroll in can vary, with some taking the place of a normal high school class while others are to be taken alongside their already mandatory classes. To Izabel, the increased workload was a challenge, which she approached confidently.

“At one point, I was taking seven classes in total – a combination of dual credit and high school courses, but I knew it would be worth it in the long run,” she said.

In terms of resources, dual credit students have access to TSC’s Digital Library and tutoring services, allowing them to interact with and familiarize themselves with two vital services designed to enhance their educational experience. Armed with these resources, dual credit students get a sneak peek into college course requirements and the chance to put some college-level academic skills into practice.

“It’s given me the chance to start learning small things that I know will be required once I become a full-time college student,” said Vasquez. “For example, my writing course introduced me to APA style formatting, so now when I have to write a paper for class using APA style, I won’t be scrambling to figure it out because I already have experience.”

The value of a high-quality education isn’t evident to just Vasquez, as her success has inspired Cynthia Amparo Vasquez to consider her own educational pathway.

“I started and stopped taking college courses many years ago, but I’m only three credit hours away from earning my degree and could literally get it done in a semester, so I realized that both Izabel and I could walk together at the same graduation ceremony,” said Amparo Vasquez. “That rekindled a little bit of fire in me to consider giving that last push and finishing up my degree.”

Success stories like these demonstrate Texas Southmost College’s continued commitment to working closely with districts, such as Harlingen CISD, to provide students with the best high-quality educational opportunities throughout the South Texas region and prepare them for their futures.

“I’m already counting down the weeks until I can continue taking college classes as a full-time student, on a college campus,” she said with a smile.

James Walker