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It's Never Too Early: The Value of an Academic Plan

There’s been a movement recently in high school education, both in the private and public sector, to expand dual enrollment opportunities. Dual enrollment programs provide the opportunity for students to take college level courses while still in high school, in partnership with a college or university. These programs offer a number of benefits, including the opportunity to take classes not offered at a student’s high school, to further challenge their knowledge and skills, and to get a closer look at an academic area of interest. Recent studies show that students who participate in these programs are more likely to go on to receive a college degree and have an easier time adjusting to the rigors of college level coursework. 

With that said, however, it is vital that parents, students, and schools work as a team to develop a comprehensive student academic plan. Such a plan will help determine to what degree dual enrollment fits each individual student’s needs and future plans. An academic plan cannot be started too early! That is why college counseling at Rivermont begins in Middle School. 

Now I’m not suggesting that our 6th Grade students commit to a college major or career path to pursue - students should have the freedom to explore all possibilities. But parents and educators should build pathways early for students to achieve their dreams. For example, a 6th Grade student may not know they want to pursue an engineering degree, but if they show a strength in mathematics, they should be given opportunities to develop this talent. If, as a senior, this student decides to apply to a top engineering university, they will need Calculus (or AP Calculus) completed prior to graduation. Working backwards from this goal will create an academic plan for AP Calculus in 12th Grade, Pre-calculus in 11th Grade, and so on – back to Pre-algebra in 6th Grade. 

The same planning holds true for dual enrollment – it must be included as part of a student’s overall academic plan. Look for subjects or career paths your student has an interest in. Then, explore what is offered in that area via dual enrollment. Enrolling in dual enrollment courses in several academic areas may help a student narrow down their interests. For students already focused on a major or particular college or university, research what dual enrollment courses are applicable and will transfer. Rivermont's partnerships with Augustana College, St. Ambrose University, and Western Illinois University expand the course selection across the entire Quad Cities, while academic and college counseling tailored to each student builds their pathway to success.

At home, be sure to discuss with your child their interests and future dreams and ask them about their academic plan and their work with their advisor to develop it. Work in partnership and support an early academic plan to ensure opportunities later.

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