Running Start

Empty lecture hall

The Running Start program allows high school students to take college level courses for credit.
Image: Shutterstock

Running’s Start’s name says it all. The dual enrollment program allows juniors and seniors in high school to attend college level courses while counting those credits to finish high school. It gives students a two-year jump on college, both academically and socially. In Washington state, where it was piloted in the early 1990s, enrollment is tuition-free. In Hawaii, the only other state to adopt the program, tuition is income-based, with scholarships available to some. In Washington, the program includes all community and technical colleges both public and private, as well as four major universities. In Hawaii, it is limited to the University of Hawaii.

Running Start is no secret, but many seem to be put off by the application process. However, while the process does have several steps, they’re not too difficult to complete.

You apply to the program through the college you wish to attend. They’ll have their own application. If it isn’t readily available on their website, a quick email to their Counseling Center should net you a link. Complete it, send it in. Due dates for these are usually quite generous, with some as late as June.

Have your school send an official copy of your transcript to the college’s admissions office. Some may give you a sealed envelope and make you do the legwork, but that’s becoming rarer.

Take the college placement test. Most colleges offer this regularly throughout the year, or they’ll be willing to work with you to find a convenient date. Some colleges will even let you do this at your high school. To qualify for Running Start, you need a better than 2.5 GPA and college level test scores in Reading and either Writing or Math on the placement test. Whatever you fall short in, you’ll have to make up before you can take 100-level courses (the lowest ones which will give you college credit), so do your best!

This step is important: Schedule an appointment with the college’s Running Start Adviser. They’re familiar with your situation, especially if you’ll still be taking some classes at your high school. They’ll help you balance and plan your schedule. You and a parent may also be required to take an orientation. Maybe even two–one for Running Start and one for the college.

Thus armed with advice and information, it’s time to register at the admissions office with your registration form and a completed and signed Running Start Verification Form. Then you can pick your classes and begin your first steps into the college life.


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