Early College

Information for Prospective Students & Parents

How can my child become an Early College student?
Early Colleges accept applications in the spring for the following school year. Deadlines vary. Contact the School Counselor directly to request an application and to confirm important dates:
Blue Ridge Early College: Amy Fahey, 828.743.2646 or afahey[at]jcpsmail[dot]org
Jackson County Early College: Denise Landaker, 828.339.4468 or dlandaker[at]jcpsmail[dot]org
Macon Early College: Mary Pittman, 828.306.7008 mary.pittman[at]macon.k12.nc[dot]us


What classes do Early College students take at SCC?
Most Early College High School students are working to complete the Associate of Arts – College Transfer degree. This degree ensures students’ transfer with junior status into North Carolina state universities. With assistance from their college advisor (liaison) and high school counselor, students should become familiar with the entrance and program requirements at the university they plan to transfer to in order to guide their course selections at SCC.

Where does the Associate’s Degree take students?
Through the Comprehensive Articulation Agreement with the University of North Carolina system, with the University of North Carolina system, SCC students may earn up to 62 semester hour credits that will transfer to any of the 16 public universities in the state. A number of North Carolina’s independent colleges and universities have also signed a similar agreement. Students interested in attending an out-of-state institution should contact that school’s Transfer Advising office directly to ensure transferability.


Do students have to have certain test scores?
Not to be accepted into an Early College High school. The first year at ECHS, students focus on high school classes and may only take 1-2 college classes that normally do not require placement testing.

Most college classes do have “pre-requisite” test scores. This means before a student may be registered for the class, the student must demonstrate he/she is ready for college level work by his/her scores on any one of several tests (PSAT, PLAN, ACT, SAT or CPT).

If a student does not have acceptable scores from another test, he/she may take the Accuplacer College Placement Test (CPT). This test is untimed and administered free of charge by Southwestern Community College. The test has four sections: reading comprehension, sentence skills, arithmetic, and elementary algebra. This test is not a pass/fail test, but is for “placement” only (does the student “place into” college level work?). Liaisons notify students in advance if and when the student should take the Accuplacer. Students are strongly encouraged to complete the sample test and take advantage of free placement test prep classes before taking the real test.

What does the college academic experience look like for Early College students?
Academic Support

Students will take honors-level high school courses that resemble the structure and expectations of college courses to help prepare them for a successful transition into college classes. High school teachers are also available to provide support to students after they begin to take college courses. The College also has numerous support services in-place to help students be successful.

Small Class Size

An essential component to the Early College is that the total number of enrolled students in grades 9 – 13 remains under 200. This allows for smaller high school class sizes and greater opportunities for one-on-one attention by faculty and staff. Southwestern Community College also provides small class sizes, when compared to the university-style auditorium/lecture classes. Small class sizes offers students the opportunity to develop positive, supportive relationships with instructors and classmates.

Initial Support and Emphasis

The Early College emphasizes the need to complete the state-required 28 credits for the high school diploma by accelerating the first two years of the students’ core high school classes (math, science, language arts, and social studies). At the same time, students will enroll in preparatory college courses to enhance their reading and study skills for college success. In the following three years, students will be enrolled mostly in college courses to work towards the completion of the Associate’s Degree or certificate. College courses also transfer back to the high school as core classes or electives for the high school diploma.

Challenge & Rigor

College courses are expected to be more rigorous than high school courses so students should expect to be challenged in all areas: 

  • Homework may take more time to complete and may have rigid deadlines
  • Research papers and other writing assignments may be longer, more detailed, and of a higher caliber (in grammar, structure, and content) than in previous experiences
  • Reading assignments from textbooks and other publications may challenge the student with adult vocabulary, concepts, and analysis, and the student will be expected to demonstrate in class that he/she has read and understood the material
What types of social activities are available to students at the Early College?
While Early College students have a different high school experience than students at larger, traditional high schools, they will have many similar social activities. As a result of a smaller school, often times Early College students have more opportunities for leadership roles in their school activities. Each Early College will offer different opportunities to students. These opportunities often include participation in high school and college clubs, class and school trips, dances, student government, school yearbook, newsletters and other publications, and many more.