College classes offer chance to live and learn like twentysomethings

Over the course of the 12 weeks that college classes were in session during the fall 2017 semester, one group of college-going ARHS students calculated that they spent a total of over $50 on parking before and during their multivariable calculus class at Amherst College.

While this was not the case for every student who took classes at one of the nearby colleges, it was true that a new challenge for many was providing their own transportation, whether that was walking, biking, taking the bus, or driving.

Despite this inconvenience, between 30 and 40 students went the extra mile in exchange for some college learning this past semester.

Nick Roblee-Strauss, a senior at ARHS, took a class at UMass Amherst called “The U.S. and Global Terrorism.”

Roblee-Strauss decribed the class as a challenge, saying that for homework, they were assigned “up to 100 pages of reading for a class.”

Despite the challenge, Roblee-Strauss said “I discussed and learned about things that were much more complicated and nuanced than a high school course.”

Because most college classes do not match up with a high school schedule, one class typically takes up three consecutive blocks, leaving lots of time for students to use however they choose.

Fiona Warnick, an ARHS senior, took multivariable calculus at Amherst College this past semester and discovered the liberties of being able to choose how to spend her free time before class, whether it was doing homework, getting a snack at a local bakery, or even sledding.

Warnick noted that while she did learn a lot of math, she “definitely got more out of the independence and getting to leave school than [she] did from the math itself.”

Ericka Alschuler, interim assistant principal at ARHS, expressed a similar sentiment about the benefits of taking college classes.

“[They] give students a chance to really take control of their time and manage their work, more so than meeting their teacher every day of the week,” Ms. Alschuler said. “When you only meet once or twice a week, and you know that you’ve got at least six hours of work outside of class, you have to manage how [you’re] going to fit that work into everything. I think that’s one of the main benefits.”

Ms. Alschuler added that not only does taking a college class during high school give you a taste of the independence that college gives and requires, but it also “allows people to get a sense of what colleges are asking for and how academics are different in college than they are in high school.”

For some involved, having someone to do that figuring out with was helpful.

Warnick realized that having friends in her class was imperative to her enjoying her class.

“If I was alone, I would have hated it,” Warnick said. “I would have been scared of all the college kids and sad they didn’t talk to me. I still would have liked the professor, though. I also might have learned more math.”