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Early College: Get Ahead with an Advance Start

early college program

Focused. Ready for a challenge. Eager to get ahead. These are the characteristics of Howard County high school students who enroll in the Early College program.

A partnership between the Howard County Public School System and Howard Community College, Early College students earn 30 college credits by the time they graduate from high school. They will need only one year full time at HCC to finish the final 30 credits necessary to earn their associate degree. In addition, students will receive opportunities to participate in internship experiences and receive one-on-one support to write a career-ready resume and to prepare for job interviews. 

No matter what the future holds, starting college at Howard Community College is a smart decision. Whether transferring to a prestigious four-year university or getting the inside track on a dream career, HCC will help students achieve their goals.

In addition to Early College, HCC offers a variety of options for students looking to jump start their college education, including dual enrollment and early entrance programs.

  • Supportive Cohort

    Students will learn with a group of students called a cohort. By taking many of their classes together, students will experience a collaborative learning community, form friendships and connect with other students who have similar academic interests. Educational coaches will round out the experience to ensure students have support.

  • Resources

    Early College students will have access to college planning tools and resources, including specialized academic advising to prepare them for the rigor and challenge of college courses and additional assistance to prepare for college placement exams. Together, parents and students will benefit from the one-on-one guidance on how to pay for college. In addition, students will receive career counseling, tailored summer educational experiences, and opportunities to meet industry professionals. 

  • College Savings

    Through this unique program, students will earn a college degree for a fraction of the cost typically paid for the first two years at a four-year university. In fact, families will save nearly 50 percent, and there is an even greater reduction for families who qualify for tuition assistance. By participating in the Early College program, students will experience the value of learning at Howard Community College.

  • FAQ
    What’s the difference between the various Early College programs? 
    Early College Cybersecurity is designed for students who want to pursue careers in cybersecurity. Courses will be offered at the Applications and Research Lab (ARL) and Howard Community College. Students from every Howard County High School can enroll in Early College Cybersecurity. 
    Early College STEM is designed for Oakland Mills High School students interested in pursuing careers in the sciences, mathematics, or science and math education. Courses will be offered at Oakland Mills High School and Howard Community College. 
    How much will it cost?
    Families will need to pay for the cost of college courses. While students are taking courses at HCC and still enrolled in high school, they are eligible for reduced tuition. In addition, there are greater cost reductions for families who qualify for tuition assistance.
    What will the course schedule look like? 
    Students will take high school classes during their 9th and 10th grade years, but they will be engaged in college prep activities and will be introduced to their Early College learning cohort. In the 11th grade, students will begin taking a few college courses alongside their high school courses. These college-level courses will be taught by Howard Community College professors at the high schools participating in the Early College program.  For 12th grade, students will take nearly all of their courses at Howard Community College. College credit will be earned for all college-level courses.
    Will there be time in the schedule for extracurricular activities?
    Students will be able to participate in athletics and other after-school activities for all four years of high school. When they attend Howard Community College in their senior year, they will be bused from their respective high school to and from HCC
    Are there other ways to earn college credit while in high school?
    Yes. Howard Community College offers dual enrollment and early entrance programs for high school students. These programs allow students to take a limited number of college credit courses while still in high school. If Early College is not a good match, students may want to consider these other opportunities to earn college credit.
    Will the college credits earned at HCC transfer? 
    College credits earned at HCC will transfer to Maryland public four-year colleges and universities and most private colleges. Credits will likely transfer to out-of-state schools, but it depends on the institution. 

    What if the Early College program is too difficult for my student?

    The Early College Program includes tutoring, study skill enhancement, educational enrichment activities, and summer and school-year support.  Student progress will be monitored, ensuring that HCPSS and HCC staff can intervene early if students are struggling.  All students will have assistance from a counselor, advisor, and mentor. If the program continues to be too challenging, students should withdraw from the program before their senior year to ensure they are able to take a regular senior schedule and graduate from high school on time.

    What if my student does not want to attend HCC? 

    While the Early College program encourages students to complete their associate degree, students can graduate from high school and choose instead to attend a four-year college or university. The 30 college credits earned at HCC may transfer to the four-year college or university, depending on the new academic program that the student selects to study. The credits will have to be reviewed by an advisor at the transfer institution.

    Howard Community College recommends students complete their associate degree because the 60 credits earned at Howard Community College will typically fulfill the introductory coursework or first two years of bachelor’s degree programs at Maryland public four-year colleges and universities. Students who develop a transfer plan with their transfer advisor will typically have all 60 credits go toward the 120 credits needed for a bachelor’s degree. In addition, the associate degree will make students competitive for careers requiring a college degree.

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