Students at Middle College can feel academically challenged but also socially isolated.

Middle College: “The Best Kept Secret in the School District”

4 mins read

High school used to be a place known for its liveliness, social freedom, and teaching of new life skills. Though this can still be the case, educational institutions now are more likely to be considered as a place of stress, academic rivalry, and heavy course loads. However, the Middle College program provides an alternative high school experience and is an amazing opportunity for juniors and seniors to consider.

M-A students participate in clubs and sports, fulfill A-G requirements for graduation, and even take a few AP classes. A lot of them also haggle between extracurriculars which, on top of a heavy course load, can end up being demanding on a teenager’s mind and body. As a result, many students wish for an escape from the traditional high school experience while simultaneously earning enough credits and experiences in time for college.

The San Mateo Union High School District, South San Francisco Unified High School District, and the Sequoia Union High School District (SUHSD) are just a few of the many districts that offer Middle College, a unique program which provides independent and self-sufficient high school students an exciting and challenging learning environment. 

Middle College at M-A is a joint program between the SUHSD and Cañada College. The program is offered for both juniors and seniors to help challenge students that are highly capable or looking for a new high school experience. Students can get a GPA boost through free college classes instead of AP classes. The program is especially popular for first generation students who want to get a feel for college life, students who want to save tuition money through earning college credits, and those who want to have more flexible schedules. 

Middle College students must satisfy the SUHSD graduation requirements and be enrolled in at least seven units from San Mateo County Community College District (SMCCCD) college classes, which can give both high school and college credits. 

Steven Redmond, the executive director of Middle College and the College and Career Director for SUHSD, acknowledges Middle College as “the best kept secret in the school district.” Redmond said, “One of the misconceptions surrounding Middle College is that students wouldn’t be able to connect to their home high school on an everyday basis, but in reality, they’re still able to play sports, participate in activities, go to prom, and keep their friendships in high school.” 

While the social life aspect often deters prospective Middle College students, Redmond makes it clear that the social factor within Middle College depends on the student and how they make their new college experience. He said, “Every student is different in terms of how they connect with their high school. Although Middle College gives students the opportunity to participate in high school dances and sports, some students may prefer the traditional high school experience.”

Senior Yessar Saad said, “Sometimes Middle College doesn’t provide the best social scene, at least for me.”

The program is also known to target individuals who want to accelerate themselves academically, explore classes that more deeply cover their area of interest, or to just experience an early college experience. At Middle College, there are many resources available for students such as free snacks and lunch, free tutoring, and reduced transportation costs for students who need it. 

Additionally, the program gives a head start to students’ college and career planning and it also provides exceptional resources for first generation students. In particular, Cañada College offers a Transfer Admission Guarantee (TAG) program that students can complete to earn a 100% guaranteed acceptance to schools such as UC Davis, UC Irvine, UC Merced, and many more 4-year colleges in California. Even if students do not participate in TAG, they can still begin their freshman year with a year’s worth of credits under their belt if they decide to go to a UC, CSU, or other college that accepts transferable credits.

Saad reflected on her experience with Middle College, she said, “I wouldn’t recommend Middle College to all students, only ones that can work without supervision and intervention from teachers or adults. I would also only recommend it to the students that are looking for this type of environment.” Since Middle College is significantly different from a traditional high school experience, it’s really important for students who are interested in participating in the program to want to be there and be able to adjust to a new environment. 

Similarly to Saad, senior Aaryan Patel chose to enroll into the program this year due to the rigorous courses that Middle College offers. He felt restricted in certain subjects, as the classes he was interested in such as AP Economics are not offered at M-A. Patel said, “There is definitely less of a community feel at Middle College. The classes have a wide age range from students my age who want to challenge themselves, to adults who are more than 20-years-old trying to get back on track with their education. It can definitely feel daunting to reach out to others or even ask questions.”

Ava Johnson, a senior in Middle College acknowledges her time in the program was “mind blowing.” Johnson said, “The program has so many great qualities. Because it has a small student-to-teacher ratio, you get much more support and attention from Middle College professors. The program offers a ton of resources for students, as they have a College and Career Readiness elective that helps you through your entire college application process. It’s like having a free college counselor.” 

You can say goodbye to paying hundreds of dollars in BYU college classes and AP tests because Middle College is completely free. On top of that, Middle College allows for students to have more free time. Those who want to spend more time volunteering, working, interning, or hanging out with friends will like the class schedule that Middle College offers. The college classes take place from 12:30-3:05 on Mondays to Fridays, so outside of these set times, students have complete control of their class schedules. 

Johnson said, “I didn’t start class until 9:45 on Mondays and Wednesdays, 11 am on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and 12:30 pm on Fridays. I basically got to sleep in everyday if I planned my schedule right.”

Due to the program’s appeal for students who want to get ahead and for those who need more support, Middle College has definitely proven to be “the best kept secret in the school district.”

Avery is a senior in her first year of writing for the Chronicle. She seeks out stories that highlight student life on campus and runs the Galles Guide. In her free time, she likes to spend time with family and friends, often at the beach!

Latest from Blog