Rachel Godin still has a few more days left to count herself as a college graduate while she’s still attending high school.
This year, Rachel is one 47 Renaissance High School students who completed an associate’s degree while attending the West Ada school.
Through its concurrent enrollment program, Renaissance students earn college credits while at high school.
She graduate from Idaho State University with an associate’s of arts general studies degree earlier this month after earning 67 credits and slogging through three hours of homework a night.
“I felt like such an adult and so accomplished and cool to be up there among so many students with doctorates and upper level degrees and to have my degree recognized too,” Rachel said. “It was really, really cool.”
Other students’ follow the school’s International Baccalaureate track, once they enter their junior year – meaning all the schools courses for upperclassmen are either honors or dual credit courses.
The school’s faculty is able to offer the programs through partnerships with Idaho’s colleges and universities and because many teachers are certified as adjuncts, while others hold advanced degrees within their subject area.
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In order to earn an associate’s degree, students must meet higher expectations and shoulder heavier workloads. For Rachel, that meant passing 21 credits the first semester of her junior year, with another 17 to follow that up the very next semester.
For her, the most difficult class was macro economics course offered through Boise State University earlier in her senior year.
“It’s hard work, but it pays off,” she said. “That’s what I felt during graduation: I’m finally here and it paid off.”
Because of its extra focus on academics, Renaissance doesn’t offer high school sports or some other after-school activities – though students can play for a district high school near their home. (Rachel was active with Centennial High’s dance team).
Students are also selected through an application and lottery process.
Renaissance’s academic-oriented environment has paid off through some of the state’s best SAT scores and accolades from U.S. News and World Report, which heralded Renaissance as Idaho’s top-ranked school earlier this month.
The sacrifices and lack of sleep are worth it for many students. Rachel, who aspires to be a physician, was able to complete most of her college general requirement courses before leaving high school at the dual credit fee of $65 per credit – well below that $300-plus per credit fee traditional college students pay.
Interest in the program is also growing. In 2013, the first year of eligibility, nine Renaissance students graduated with an associate’s degree and high school diploma. That number grew to 18 students in 2014, is will hit 47 students this year.
Aside from all her homework and competing on the dance team, Rachel serves as president of the school’s chapter of the National Honor Society and works part-time as a barista.
“You have to make time management a priority, but I wouldn’t have done it any other way,” Rachel said. “I am busy, but it’s worth it. And with the year winding down, I have a lot more time.”
Ali Crane, director of enrollment student services at Idaho State University-Meridian, said Renaissance graduates who complete the associate’s degree program are very attractive to college recruiters.
“They are not just good high school students, they are great college students too,” Crane said.
Idaho State University has accepted all of Rachel’s credits and extended a scholarship to its honors program. Rachel will attend ISU in the fall, and is interested in studying biology. She plans to use her experience at Renaissance as a springboard to earn bachelor’s degree in just two or three years and continue her educational journey to becoming a physician.
“It makes college really, really affordable for our family through ISU and all of the scholarships,” Rachel said.
Renaissance High School graduation ceremonies are set for 7 p.m. Friday inside the gymnasium at Mountain View High, 2000 S. Millennium Way.