Middle College: An Alternative for High Schoolers

As many parents of gifted and 2e teenagers experience, the typical public high school often does not fulfill their children’s educational and intellectual needs. Being bored in your favorite class does nothing to support a love of learning. Since most classes in high school run a full school year, students face an unchanging approach for up to nine months. Additionally, if the class does not cover all the required content, students may find that they cannot move to the next level, which may be the very class required when applying to the college or university of the student’s choice.

Other educational options do exist, such as dual enrollment in high school and community college, but that can often leave a transitioning student without a safety net when navigating the community college system.

Fortunately, another option exists: Middle college high schools. This program, offered by high schools in tandem with community colleges, provides students with academic and social preparation for college. Middle college high schools consist of a partnership between a local community or junior college and one or more high school districts. They can be found throughout the US. Originally set up as a program for at-risk high school students, the program has proven to provide a strong start for students who want an easier transition from high school to college, as well as a no-cost opportunity to earn transferable college credits during the high school years.

Each middle college designs its own program. Some provide one or more high school MC2classes by specially appointed teachers, such as history and English, while others may not. Some programs stay small by only accepting a maximum of 50 students per grade level; others might accept double that amount. Still, through the nature and size of those programs, relationships between students and the middle college staff are often more close-knit than at the high school campus. In addition, most programs provide on-campus counseling and help with class choice, which creates a greater safety net for teenage students.

MC1 (1)During this two-year program, students take classes during the fall and spring semesters, and may opt to take additional classes in the shorter winter and summer semesters. Although these optional semesters are shorter, college credit can still be earned for satisfactory completed classes. The college offers a greater variety of classes in each subject area than a typical high school program, and, due to semester-long courses, a greater number of classes can be taken in total. By abiding to the graduation rules of their local high school and passing all their classes, students earn both their high school diploma and transferable college credit. By taking a few additional classes, students can complete an associate degree at some middle colleges in those two years. Good planning is key, though. Students wishing to complete an associate degree are advised to work with their middle college high school counselor in their first semester to set up their plan.

Just like other high schoolers, middle college high school students continue to live at home. The middle college program is cost free to local high schoolers. At some middle colleges, students also receive a stipend for renting textbooks.

In order to take advantage of this alternative opportunity, high school students need Kolibri Tutoring smallto go through an official application process. Although the content of the application process might differ between middle colleges, in the end it is the middle college team that decides if the student seems mature enough to participate in the program. Students who are capable of participating in this adult learning environment, who can take control of their own learning and work independently, have a higher chance of success at a middle college and are the students who will likely be admitted to the program.

Middle college high school is a fine alternative for gifted and twice exceptional students wishing to complete a more mature program in preparation for their university or college careers. Whether they start high school as a homeschooler or by attending private or public high school, all incoming 11th graders can apply to the local middle college program. For many gifted and 2e students and their parents, this program is an alternative worthy of consideration.   

More information can be found at:

Fact Sheet: Middle College High School Program (for the whole USA)

Middle College High School (MCHS): Program and Service Descriptions (California)


meKitty van Keulen is a bilingual mom and educator who wears many hats. She lives in Santa Clara County, California, where she works with children 0-18 years old and their families. 

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