Bridging high school and college

In her college years, Sophomore Prerna Agarwal would like to double major in political science and business. However, she often feels frustrated with the required courses at high school.

“Since [high school] helps determine career paths, such a large amount of required courses without the opportunity to take other courses to explore our interests [is inconvenient],” Agarwal said.

Such students can turn to San Jose Middle College (SJMC), a free program where upperclassmen take both high school and college classes on a community college campus, earning a high school diploma and transferable college credits. San Jose Unified School District students can dual enroll in SJMC and their high school, while attending classes at San Jose City College (SJCC).

Diverse courses allow students to pursue possible concentrations to a degree that cannot be offered in a regular high school setting. Students can learn from free, specific and career-oriented college classes not available in most high schools, an option more cost-effective than shorter summer programs offering the same experiences. Most students choose to enroll in two to three free college classes and four high school classes on campus.

“Middle colleges seem to be a great option for students who want more academic challenges or want to explore and research with college students, but I never heard of them until now. If advertised more, it would benefit students who work better in that environment,” Senior Nicole Winiecki said.

The application for SJMC is a three-step process consisting of a SJMC application and recommendation packet, a SJCC admissions packet, placement and registration. After acceptance, students sign a behavioral guidelines contract and register for college classes.

Students attending middle college can still participate in school events and sports with the high school that they are dual enrolled in. Similarly, they can graduate alongside with their high school. Many middle college students have gone on to attend various high-ranking colleges and the Universities of Calif. They have a typical application process, advanced courses and transferrable college credits can demonstrate interest in certain concentrations and give them a boost in higher education.

“There is a perception that [SJMC is] only for higher achieving students who want to be more competitive, but that really is not the case. Another [misconception is] that community colleges may deter students from attending reputable schools. But for many students, traditional high schools are incompatible with their personalities and interests. In fact, the freedom of SJMC provides challenges and yields greater results,” Joan Albers, College and Career Counselor, said.

Currently no Chargers are in SJMC, perhaps due to the lack of knowledge concerning middle colleges, or the stigma associated with community colleges.