It's a significant transition from high school to college. And like many other personal and career opportunities, it's all about preparation.
Academically qualified high school juniors and seniors can get a taste of college through Running Start, a partnership among nine campuses in the University of Hawaii system, including UH-Maui College and the state Department of Education.
Through this program, public high school students can attend and complete college classes during the fall, spring and summer while earning both high school and college credits.
College credits earned as a Running Start participant may be applied to degree programs in the UH system, shortening the time for degree completion. But the real value could be the confidence it gives college-bound students.
English instructor Derek Snyder, who teaches Running Start students in his English 100 class at Maui College, said: "Experiencing an initial college classroom before their first actual semester in college allows students to ease into these higher expectations for the classroom and to gain confidence in their own ability to achieve success in the college."
Haley D., a Running Start participant now enrolled in the college's nursing program, said she encourages other high school students to consider it.
"It took a lot of maturity. You have to be self-directed, and I started as a freshman in high school, which was a big age difference. But my professors were very supportive. I'd recommend even taking one class just to get an idea of what a college course is like."
Snyder added: "In the college classroom, students are expected to arrive at their own informed conclusions on complex topics, to be able to support their perspectives with empirical evidence, and to be critical thinkers."
At U-H Maui College, expectations of student learning are increasing. Collegewide learning outcomes focus on quantitative reasoning, creativity, critical thinking, information retrieval and oral and written communication. All students and faculty in liberal arts and technical programs share these mastery goals.
Students must learn to effectively present and substantiate their original ideas. College courses offer students greater freedom and independence but also expect greater responsibility. Additionally, personal time-management, clarifying and connection with one's motivation and passion as well as self-discipline are basic elements for success.
Once on the path of aligning passions with choices, the confidence gained from managing one's priorities and time feeds improvement. This self-assurance does not come from the praise that a student doing well in school might receive. It is intrinsic, and therefore more effective in supporting that student's success in college and beyond.
According to a 2007 report by American College Testing, "The Role of Nonacademic Factors in College Readiness and Success": ACT research also indicates that students with higher academic motivation, self-discipline and self-confidence are more likely to earn higher college grade point averages. Students with these traits, as well as those with clear academic goals, strong academic skills, college social connections, a commitment to college and an interest in their subject matter, are more likely to persist through the third year of college."
Students should, however, be prepared for a more rigorous environment. Tad Iwata, the College and Career counselor for Maui High School, said: "The jump to college courses is often extremely challenging for many high school students. Running Start courses provide the stepping stone that can go a long way to preparing high school students for a successful transition to college and an eventual degree."
High school students interested in learning more about Running Start should talk with their high school academic adviser to see if they are eligible. The deadline for spring 2014 Running Start applications is Dec. 2. Some classes are still available for each semester.
To get a "running start" for college, prepare now. We look forward to seeing you at one of our campuses on Maui, Molokai or Lanai.
* Clyde Sakamoto is chancellor of the University of Hawaii Maui College. Ka'ana Mana'o means "sharing thoughts." The column appears on the fourth Sunday of each month. It is prepared with assistance from UH-Maui College staff and features opportunities available through the college at its Kahului campus and education centers.