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Being a first-generation college student can be very challenging as we have to overcome many financial restrictions. Let’s face it: if you are a first-generation student, you will probably be leaving college with debt because statistics show that you will not have as much financial support as other students. What if there was a way that you could cut the years you spend in college, and have to pay less for your education as a result? This is what the new early college high school system, which is geared for those of us who cannot afford to go to a four-year university, does. These early college high schools allow students to enroll in dual credit classes at local colleges while still in high school for free or at reduced costs.

The early college system (sometimes known as a middle college) not only provides a cost-effective way for me to get my degree; the confidence I gained from the program is astronomical. If you’re like me, your grades and education are very important to you. Therefore, if you can get good grades in college classes while in high school then you know that you can do it after you graduate from high school. College and high school differ greatly in curriculum organization; the students in this program already know what to do when they move on to a four-year university. There is no better way to prepare for college than to experience it firsthand.

In talking to admissions representatives at various colleges, I’ve learned that one of the most highly-valued aspects of a student’s application is how much that student is challenging themselves with difficult classes. If you do well in an early college program, then colleges know that you will succeed when you go to a university.

The early college program usually uses a magnet system: students apply for admission and the program typically draws students from throughout a school district. I gained so much confidence from knowing that someone believed in me enough that they admitted me into this program.

This program has absolutely changed my life. I was already a good enough student to get into a pretty good school, but not someone that was going to get many full scholarships. If I was going to be the first person in my family to go to college, then it was going to put me very deep in college loan debt; but, since I am able to eliminate about two years of a four-year degree, college has become much more affordable.

If you are a first-generation college student, the early college program is something you should definitely look into. I have never met one person who regretted going through this program.

P.S. If anybody has any questions, feel free to message me on Facebook: Dustin Ham or on Twitter @ham_dustin