Q&A with Caitlyn Carralejo, OCC Dual Enrollment Program Coordinator

Did you know you can take college classes as a high school student? Or that you can enroll in such courses even if our school does not offer them? Did you know that these classes are available at a reduced price, or even for free?

The California Career and College Pathways program (also known as the dual enrollment program) establishes a partnership between high schools and community colleges that allows high school students to enroll in and take college classes. As a bonus, if a student takes UC or Cal State transferable courses and they attend a UC or Cal State after high school, they will not have to repeat those courses in college, thereby saving the student money. Students interested in attending classes for the Spring 2021 semester must apply before January 30th, the first day of classes.

The project coordinator for the dual enrollment program at Orange Coast College, Caitlyn Carralejo, spoke with the Beacon‘s Gauri Patwardhan about the requirements and benefits of the program.

Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

GP: Who is eligible to partake in this program?

CC: Students can start taking [college] classes as early as the summer before they go into the ninth grade. [But] every student has their own schedule, and they might be taking a lot of AP courses in high school. They might have sports or extracurricular activities and clubs. So we don’t want [them], at the same time, to take a college class and [to earn] college credit … [because] it permanently goes on their college transcript.

So, although you can start taking classes as early as the eighth grade, you want to make sure that you are ready to take those classes and so forth.

GP: Where are the classes offered?

CC: [Normally] students would [have] the opportunity to come to our campus and get that college experience. [Right now, though,] everything is online. 

GP: It is a risk going from a comfortable high school environment to this big college. So how do you know you are ready for that transition?

CC: If you are, for the most part, an A or B student, I would think that could be one determining factor. [Also, if you think,] “I’m ready for a new challenge to do something new,” [then you should consider this].

With that said, [at] OCC, we offer a variety of courses, everything from welding to aviation. And so some students find that they might not be as successful in high school, but then they get into a [college] class that they really love and that they’re interested in taking, and then they find themselves successful. 

[As high] school students, you can always talk to your high school counselor to make sure [you are ready]. You’re [also] welcome to talk with me or someone from OCC. Know what you’re getting into.

GP: How can a student be successful in a college class?

CC: You need to [be] personally responsible. [In college, ] you don’t always get reminders and so forth from teachers. So for a student, they have to be personally responsible and know when everything is due. 

And if not, then they have to have enough courage to be able to advocate for themselves and to talk to the instructor. Choose a class that’s appropriate [for] you.

GP: How is the classroom environment? 

CC: Some courses are very hands on, [but others have] lectures. It really depends on the instructor. And every instructor [has] the freedom and flexibility to teach their course differently.

You lose that comfort of knowing everybody like you do in high school. And now you’re out there kind of on your own. [There is also a] wide range of students, all the way from high school to someone that could be like 70 years old.

But that is a fun experience. [It is interesting] to hear all these different perspectives from all these different walks of life. 

GP: What are the fees?

CC: Typically, if a student takes a class with us, they do not pay the per-unit enrollment fee. But students do have to pay the health fee, the service fee, and the student representation (around $49 per semester).  

GP: Are only specific courses part of the program?

CC: Students [can] take almost any course at OCC provided that [they clear the] approval process.[For Spring 2021, we have eight] courses that were handpicked by our integrative health faculty as good courses for current high school students to take for the first time. 

We’re going to be offering courses like nutrition, integrative health, coaching, sports management, stress management theory and application. Then we have some video game [classes]. So FILM A107 is the history of video games, FILM A223 is immersive video game development [and] FILM A234 [is] 3D modeling for immersive apps. 

Those courses are going to be covered. So there’s going to be no fees, no textbooks/materials that students have to pay. 

GP: If a student wants to enroll in a course, what steps do they have to take?

CC: The first step is to apply to our college. The second step is to complete that dual enrollment form, [where] you list the courses that you want to take. And that’s the form that gets signed by your parents [and your high school principal]. Then once you email it over to dual enrollment, we process it. 

That said, students have to meet course prerequisites as well. For example, you can’t get into chemistry 3000 if you haven’t completed chemistry 2000 and 1000. If you haven’t met the prerequisite, then you’ll have to take that prerequisite before you can take the actual course that you might want.

GP: How can a student clear prerequisites?

CC: Take that prerequisite. [Or if] you’ve already met it, there is [a] form that you would fill out.

Note: The form is called prerequisite clearance. Students also need to submit a college or high school transcript or AP test score to show that they completed the prerequisite.

GP: Do you have words of advice for high school students considering dual enrollment for next semester?

CC: I think if you want to do it and you’ve been thinking about it, and you feel like you have the skillset, then go for it because you’re not really going [to] know until you take that plunge, or that leap of faith in you [and] take it. 

The majority of our [dual enrollment] students are successful. [However, if you] realize, “Oh my gosh, this is not for me,” that is fine too. There are drop deadline dates in college where you can drop a course, and it won’t go on your college transcript. So that’s a safety net. Go for it.