The Middle College program is often seen as a viable option for students who have struggled in Gunn’s environment or want to pursue college credits in order to get a head start before attending university. However, Middle College is not a one-size-fits-all fix for students who want to pursue an alternative path in high school, and it should be carefully researched before students decide to make the switch.
The main perks of Middle College are the flexible options it provides. Students can attend college classes in a hybrid or online format and take classes at an accelerated pace while still participating in Gunn athletics, extracurriculars and school events. These flexible options can be appealing for students who have not found success in Gunn’s competitive academic environment or have faced difficulties connecting with peers. It can also provide the opportunity to gain credits to transfer to a University of California (UC) or California State University (CSU).
Despite these benefits, some students may still experience difficulties when transitioning to this new pathway. Middle College is a mostly independent experience, which can be hard for students who prefer academic support or peer collaboration. Furthermore, the commute to Middle College decreases students’ access to one-on-one time with Gunn teachers.
Due to the increased freedom that comes with Middle College, students who lack the motivation to do their work won’t find success. Additionally, college classes at Foothill are much less forgiving than classes at Gunn, where there are multiple assignments, assessments and projects that can provide a cushion for grades or help bring a low grade up. In college-level classes, grades are based on fewer assignments that are worth more, and one assignment can make or break your grade. This type of system can create more stress for students who might feel like an assessment or project is their only opportunity to get a good grade.
Another drawback is that not all college classes are available to Middle College students. For instance, college classes that are held
at the same time as classes required for high school students are not accessible to students in Middle College. This takes away opportunities from students who might have wanted to take specific electives or explore other courses. The limited offering of college courses can be a drawback, especially since students are also missing out on the opportunity to take Advanced Placement (AP) classes that are offered at Gunn.
Last but not least, Middle College can become an isolating experience. Although Middle College students are able to participate in Gunn-sponsored activities, they miss out on cherished Gunn traditions such as Homecoming Week and lunch events like Clash of Titans and Love Week, because they spend significantly less time on campus. Even though Middle College students are still Gunn students, they might feel disconnected from their peers because they aren’t spending time with them every day. Additionally, since students at Middle College are placed into cohorts, it is often difficult to find friends outside of the cohort. If students
struggle to get along with members of their cohorts, they have no other groups to turn to.
While Middle College is for independent learners, the drawbacks of the experience should be considered before a student decides to make a switch, because it could lead to an isolating, more challenging high school experience.