Taking high school at college

Students in the middle college program begin classes at De Anza


Photo by Desmond Kamas

Middle college students Declan Reiser (right) and Eric Albanese started school on September 10.

High school can be difficult.  Although most students are fine with curriculum and class selection, for some the traditional system doesn’t work.  Fortunately, they have middle college.

    Middle college is a partnership between FUHSD and De Anza Community College that allows students to spend their junior and senior years at De Anza for high school credit.

Declan Reiser, a junior in middle college, said he signed up for the program because of the unique learning environment.

“I wanted to be in an environment with college students because college students pay to go to school, whereas high school students have to be there,”  Reiser said. “So, I think that makes a difference.”

He said one of the most striking difference is the grading system for the middle college classes.

“They grade your assignments in a different way,” Reiser said. “Instead of A’s and B’s, it’s either incomplete or what they call ‘not yet,’ which is you don’t get it yet or you don’t get what it’s about yet.  So you either basically get an A plus, a B or you don’t get it.”

One of the assignments was to interview a former middle college student.  Reiser said the interviews were very insightful.

“This one girl said that it’s good to make friends with non-high school people, the adults in your college courses, because some of them have connections,” Reiser said. “Like this girl I interviewed, she got an internship from NASA by talking to a retired NASA employee who was taking a science class for fun.”

Eric Albanese, another junior at middle college, said he hopes the learning environment the more focused atmosphere and smaller classes will be an improvement for him.

Albanese joined middle college this year because his ADHD was a constant academic challenge at HHS. He finished his sophomore year with mostly B’s and C’s.

At the new campus, he said the people are very friendly and the atmosphere is more laid back.

    High School          Middle College

venn diagram

However, he said his classes are at inconvenient times.  One starts early in the morning and another ends late at night, so he has to bike to and from school on some days because the classes occur too early or late for the public bus, he said.

Both Albanese and Reiser said they learned of middle college from the flyers posted around campus for an information day hosted at the library during tutorial last February.

“The things they said about it appealed to me, like more independent learning,”  Reiser said.

After that, they began the process of signing up.  First they each had to get at least two recommendations from their teachers.

“One of them has to be English or history. In my case, I had my English and history teacher, and then your third one can be your drama teacher, or if you do a sport, you want your coach to do it, so they can learn more about you,” Reiser said.

Next, they had to write a timed essay.  To prepare, Albanese and Reiser said they both wrote several practice essays.

“The prompt was ‘What was an academic challenge you’ve faced, and how did you get around it?’  And if you didn’t have a good example, you could just say a life challenge,” Reiser said.

Accepted applicants are then interviewed.  Reiser and Albanese said they interviewed each other to prepare for the real thing.

Middle college students started classes on Sept. 10.  Albanese said his experience so far has been enjoyable.

Reiser said he agrees, but it’s not immensely different.

“So far, we’ve just been doing normal, back-to-school stuff,” Reiser said.