More on Community College for “Underage” Youth

Brenda Leach, a dear unschooling mama  friend of mine who’s 4th child is attending Cabrillo College (our local Community College) this semester has this advice for  parents of teens and teens wanting to take Community College Classes. This advice is specific for Cabrillo College, but a quick internet search should get you to the parallel websites of other community colleges  in your local area.

In California, the requirements to get into Community College full time are (1) be 18 years old or older, (2) have passed the GED or CHSPE (CHSPE- in CA, there are similar tests in a couple other states), or (3) possess a high school diploma. I discuss how to approach community college “underage” in this post. However, the other option is to attend community college concurrently enrolled in a high school program (homeschool or charter or regular public).  Much of the advice that Brenda offers here would apply to concurrent or full time enrolled students.

Well, Cabrillo starts very soon and that reminds me that some of us who have done this before have some tips that others might like to hear about.
If your homeschooler would like to take some classes before they are “college age,” they are allowed to as Concurrent Enrollment students. It’s not too late to register, though classes may be full and you may have to stand in line a while to register. Even if classes are full and wait lists are full, there’s still a chance of getting in if you show up for the first few classes and talk to the teacher.
To register you will need to go online and fill out the form from Cabrillo’s website.
It will direct you to CCApply where you need to make a login & password. It’s kind of a pain the first time, but then the system remembers you so you don’t have to answer all the questions again in the future.
In addition, you need to have a paper High School Release form signed by someone in  your homeschool program (if you are in  a Charter School, by your teacher or administrator, and if you have an R4 you can sign this yourself as the administrator of your homeschool) and filled out completely, and either FAXed or mailed or brought in to the Cabrillo admissions department. It sometimes takes them a little while to process it.
If your student is younger than High School age, they will need to meet with a Cabrillo counselor to get approval on the High School Release form. (This can be done at a drop in “express” appointment). They will likely also have to take an English assessment test & online orientation.  It is helpful to have already made contact with the teacher of the Cabrillo class (get their email at Cabrillo’s website) and have their blessing to have a younger student in class.
Some classes have prerequisites (listed in the catalog), and if there is a Math or English prerequisite you can often just take the assessment test to meet it. The tests are only offered certain days, and you need to have taken an online orientation first (allow over an hour), and bring photo ID. Even if your student doesn’t feel strong in Math or English, they may only have to get 25% right on the test to be considered qualified for a class (worth taking the test & guessing a lot if you feel like the class is right for your student.)
IMPORTANT: We really make use of ratemyprofessor.com to find inspired teachers. Of course you have to take some of the reviews with a large grain of salt, and try to understand if the reviewer is trustworthy. But you can usually tell a lot about a teacher’s dedication and how interesting they are by reading the reviews. I think a great teacher can make all the difference!
Again, if you try to register online for a class and it’s overfull, Show Up Anyway!!! Talk to the teacher. Be polite. Look them in the eye and smile. Sit near the front if you are willing. Keep showing up to class even if they say your chances are slim. And ask for an add slip.  Many students who are signed up don’t end up sticking with the classes, so often space opens up. If you are a really interested student, you will add to the class and teachers appreciate that. (Unless the teacher is absolutely clear that they won’t let anyone in.) Sometimes people can be added even after the official add period is over.
Payment for classes doesn’t have to be done right away. You do have to have paid before you can see your grades or sign up for future classes.
Textbooks– you can go to the Cabrillo Bookstore website (or the actual store) and see what books are required for each class. Then either buy them at the bookstore new or used (ask about their return policy–it keeps changing) or do some internet research and buy or rent elsewhere. Amazon has a longer return policy, I think. You really do need the books soon, though you can sometimes use books in the Cabrillo library while waiting for the mail. Sometimes you can find used texts with an online search MUCH cheaper than at the store. Check which edition the teacher wants, and email the teacher if you have questions about them allowing an older (cheaper) edition.
When my kids were taking their first classes there, it was good to have someone more experienced take the class with them (in our case either me or an older brother) to help them notice what was expected. Like “that’s the syllabus, here’s how you follow it and the teacher may not give you reminders.” or “Hey that was a homework assignment, did you get that?” Not nagging them or doing their work for them, just helping them to understand.

I believe in interest-led, self-directed learning. I love helping teens find lives of passion and fulfillment outside of traditional academia.

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5 comments on “More on Community College for “Underage” Youth
  1. blesseday says:

    This was all very helpful. Thank you. I have hopes for having my kids take Cabrillo classes when they are in high school, and have never heard anyone explain how it actually works.

    As a former college instructor, everything you say about getting into a “full” class is true. I always told students who really wanted to get into my class to come to the first few classes and if they persevered I might add them if a space opened up. I said I was not making any promises, because it depended upon space. *But* if a student came and jumped into the class fully, even not knowing if he/she would be enrolled, then I always added them, even if I was over my numbers. A teacher can tell the students who plan on actually being invested in the class, and which ones aren’t really into it. So be that student who is confident, intelligent, engaging, and who perseveres, and you will probably make it in, even if the class is full.

    • Thanks for your comment and input blesseday! i think it’s a great life lesson getting into classes this way. Be invested, be interested, be positive- and you can get what you want! Thanks for sharing your experience!

  2. The “just keep showing up and participating” worked well for my son in two Spanish classes, but we decided not to try it for the Chem class that had a full waiting list. Allowing extra students into a chem lab raises all sorts of safety issues, and I wouldn’t want my son taking a chem lab from an instructor that careless about safety—so the “just show up” approach would not be appropriate for a chem lab course.

    • That’s a good point. However, Chem labs are the kinds of classes that many students drop, so it still may be worth a shot. There may be some discernment necessary to see does the class have enough lab benches for each student?

      • Since my son needed to take chemistry this year, and we couldn’t risk his not getting in, we ended up buying the online course from ChemAdvantage.org

        That is not an ideal solution, but it seemed like our most secure option.

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