This February, Camille Sweet will start the spring semester of what would’ve been her first year at the University of Vermont with 61 credits under her belt – more than half of the credits required to graduate.
Sweet, a Public Communication major, has been taking college-level courses through UVM’s Pre-college Program since the summer following her freshman year of high school at Harwood Union High School in Moretown, but she wasn’t always the most eager student.
Her mom made her do it.
Gaining College Credits While Still in High School
Sweet’s mother, Leigh Williams – herself a 2015 UVM Master’s program graduate – knew that the advantages far outweighed Sweet’s preconceived notions about taking college courses away from her peers and out of her comfort zone.
“I just knew from my own experience that high school kids are perfectly capable of doing college-level work,” Williams said. “I also finished my master’s at UVM in 2015, so I was super familiar with Blackboard and class structures. So when she was a freshman in high school, I told her that she was going to take a class between her freshman and sophomore year.”
“The idea was to help her to learn how to navigate the structure of the class and all the ways that it’s different from high school, so we did it together in a way,” Williams continued. “It was a lot about learning how to write a paper and how to do research. It’s not really about how hard the material is, but how to navigate the system. She’s always been good at managing her time but it was more about showing her the difference between college-level research and high school-level research – learning how to do the appropriate references, read the instructions, know what the professor is looking for, et cetera.”
Although initially (very) unhappy with her mom’s direction, Sweet took her first online course – Intro to International Relations – and experienced a change of heart.
“After I did my first class and realized that I could actually get done high school early I was like, ok, I can do that, I’m fine with that,” Sweet laughed.
Sweet kept up the momentum and the following summer, between her sophomore and junior year, she completed online courses in Creative Writing and Anthropology. By the time she was a junior in high school, Sweet had completed enough credits to leave school at 12:30 p.m. every day and was, essentially, finished high school by the end of that year. However, Sweet wished to graduate in the spring of 2020 with her friends, so she enrolled in National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), and spent a semester in the southwest hiking, caving, canoeing, and participating in independent expeditions – while earning another 15 credits to apply toward her college degree. Upon returning to Vermont for the spring semester, Sweet enrolled in UVM courses on campus and commuted every Tuesday and Thursday until COVID-19 hit and students transitioned to remote learning.
Taking Advantage of Vermont Dual Enrollment
With the help of her Harwood guidance counselor, Sally McCarthy and UVM Pre-College advisor Kristen Kilbashian, Sweet and Williams were able to access two of her UVM courses for free through Vermont Dual Enrollment, a statewide program for high school juniors and seniors to access up to two college courses with tuition fully reimbursed through a voucher system approved by their high schools.
Additionally, UVM offers reduced tuition for both in-state and out-of-state high school students.
“I think the thing a lot of people don’t realize is that high school students can take as many college courses as they want for half price,” Williams said. “All those classes she took and we got two for free and the rest for half off.”
Williams’ work getting her children excited about college courses is ongoing: her son, Chase – a freshman in high school – is next in line to experience a Pre-College course at UVM.
“You don’t want to do it until all of a sudden — second semester of your junior year – your guidance counselor says, oh, you’re done here,” Williams laughed. “Then you’re like, oh, wow, really?”
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