High school is a time of exploration and growth. It can also be a great time to get a jump start on college credits, particularly in Fayette County, where the schools are known for excellence and course options abound. Fayette high schoolers have two main ways to pursue college credit: taking Advanced Placement (AP) classes at their regular high schools or taking college courses through Move on When Ready (MOWR), which most people know as “dual enrollment.” In this article, it will be outlined how to earn college credit in high school and what that means in terms of your child’s future.
“There are two key things to remember when we talk about these opportunities,” says Lakisha A. Bonner, coordinator of counseling and career development for the Fayette County Board of Education. “First, both provide the student a chance to gain college credit. Second, it’s not an either/or choice and there is no universal ‘right’ option. The ‘right’ choice is the one that makes the most sense for the individual student.”
So how, exactly, does each opportunity work?
AP classes are high school classes in standard subjects such as math, English, etc. They are taken at the student’s regular high school campus as part of the schedule. The work in these classes, however, is far more rigorous and challenging than in typical sections of the same course. Students who take AP classes must take a corresponding College Board standardized subject test. Tests are scored from one to five and the student’s test score, rather than their course grade, determines whether a given college or university will award college credit. Most institutions require a minimum score of three, but it’s important to understand that each college sets the minimum score that it will accept. So, one college might accept a three, while another requires a five. In addition, minimum score requirements may differ from subject to subject, even within the same institution. Regardless of test scores, however, students who pass an AP class will receive high school credit for the course, and it will count toward their high school graduation requirements.
Move on When Ready (MOWR) is a state dual enrollment program, formerly known as “ACCEL,” which allows high school students to take actual college courses while still in high school. These courses are conducted on the college’s main or satellite campus (except for online courses) and are regular sections of each course, which means the high school student could be in class with college students. All tuition and institution fees are covered by the state and textbooks are free, but parents will be responsible for course-related fees. Families will also need to arrange for transportation. Because MOWR courses require students to leave their high schools, they may miss announcements made while they’re gone and should arrange to get updates from a reliable friend. They’ll also need to remember that high school and college breaks rarely align, except during the long winter holiday and at Thanksgiving, so they may miss out on having a spring break. Students who pass MOWR courses will receive the equivalent credit for high school courses, and these classes will count toward high school graduation requirements.
Whether or not the student can receive college-level credit for the course will depend on where he or she attends college after high school, however. If the student continues at the same institution and meets the college’s minimum grade requirement for the class, he or she will receive credit. Students attending University System of Georgia or Technical College System of Georgia institutions should also receive credit (provided they meet minimum grade standards) because these colleges and universities have agreed upon a common set of core courses. If a student plans to transfer to an out-of-state or private institution, the college’s standard credit and financial aid transfer rules apply. Most Fayette students take courses through Georgia Military College, Clayton State, Southern Crescent Tech, Point University, or the University of West Georgia’s Newnan branch, but others have taken courses at Georgia Tech, Georgia State, West Georgia Technical College, UGA, and others.
Both AP and MOWR have expanded significantly in recent months and years. For example, Fayette County now offers more than 20 different AP course options, including AP Human Geography in ninth grade. Beginning this year, MOWR students have an expanded list of options and can take courses in the summer semester. In addition, students can begin MOWR as early as freshman year, rather than having to wait until 11th grade as in prior years. Not all colleges will accept high school freshmen, however, and Fayette County public high schools require students to complete a semester of high school before enrolling in dual-enrollment courses. Ms. Bonner advises students to choose more rigorous classes only in subjects in which they excel. Above all, she says, students should remember that motivation is key to success.
“The number one question students need to ask themselves is whether they are ready to put in the work, the time, and the energy to keep up with these fast-paced classes,” she says. “I’ve found that success in either – AP or MOWR – is 90 percent motivation.”
She also reiterates that no single path is better than any other for all students. In fact, before pursuing advanced coursework, students and their families must participate in a counseling session to discuss options and consider what’s best for the student.
“I encourage most students to consider a mixture of AP and MOWR,” she says, “but each student needs to have a well thought-out individual graduation plan based on their strengths, interests, and goals.”