Hundreds of students participate in Running Start

Siri Christopherson, Staff Writer

This year, 113 juniors and seniors are heading up to local community colleges for classes through the Running Start program. This is a big increase from last year, when just 80 Patriots were in the program. So why are all these people in Running Start?
To begin with, students can shave off two years of college, which means two years of tuition. So by the time they graduate high school and enter a four-year university, students will have already completed half of their college career.
“They would be entering the [four-year] school as a freshman, but they would have credits to be a junior,” career center specialist Mardi Nystrom said. “It’s free tuition because the school district pays for it. So you’re doing two years of college paid for, and that’s amazing.”
Senior Emily Skinner is in her second year of Running Start.
“I chose to take Running Start in the hopes of receiving my AA degree in college in a timely fashion,” Skinner said. “Taking college courses with the discounted prices has proven to be a beneficial factor.”
Another benefit of Running Start is that students get a preview of college before actually graduating high school.
“I wanted to experience college before being thrown into it,” senior Korye Skaare said. “You take [the courses that] you want, the level of difficulty [that] you want, and choose when you want your classes. And you also get to choose your teacher.”
Junior Sarah Zimmerman described the laid-back atmosphere at Bellevue College, where she is taking Running Start courses.
“It’s a super relaxed environment and the teachers are all really chill… they [even] give you their cell phone numbers,” Zimmerman said.
Judy Co, another specialist at the Career Center, added that Running Start is a great option if a student wants to continue a subject beyond the boundaries of high school.
“If you’ve exhausted all the course rigor in high school and wanted to go further, then colleges will definitely say, ‘wow, look, they did Japanese 6,’ or, ‘they’re willing to work hard’,” Co said.
Co also wants to make sure students know that they need to take hard classes if they are considering doing Running Start.
“You can work at a higher level if you choose classes carefully, and [it’s] really important that kids challenge themselves and choose advanced coursework. Colleges want that,” Co said. “They don’t want to see that you just went to Running Start and took the easy way.”
Another thing to keep in mind when deciding whether to do Running Start is the fact that colleges are likely to prefer Advanced Placement courses over Running Start courses. Co and Nystrom attended a conference for counselors at the University of Washington on September 22nd, where AP and Running Start credits were compared.
“If a student is deciding between AP classes in their high school and running start, unless they’re taking way advanced college classes, they should opt for advanced placement, because not all colleges accept Running Start credits,” Nystrom said. “However, AP classes are exactly the same nationwide.”
Skaare added that he chose Running Start because he plans to attend an in-state university. Since colleges in Washington are more familiar with the Running Start program, they are more likely to accept those credits than out-of-state colleges.
“I already kind of knew that I wanted to stay in state, which is what I’m planning,” Skaare said.
Given these points, Running Start is a great option for some people, but an ill-advised one for others. Co makes the point that there are good reasons to enroll in the program, but that in general, staying at Liberty is better.
“There’s lots of reasons why people want to do Running Start, and those are legitimate reasons,” Co said. “But academically this high school offers a lot of challenging classes, and students can take those and push themselves and have it be recognized across the United States, whereas Running Start might not be.”