by Sarah Nove ‘20
When senior Michael Zhao stops by Sherwood, his classmates often ask “do you still go here?” Despite the fact that he has not taken a class here in over a year, the answer is technically “yes.” In fact, Zhao will be graduating from Sherwood this spring, a couple weeks after he receives his associate degree in science with a concentration in mathematics. Zhao participates in a dual enrollment program at Montgomery College (MC), called the Early College Program.
Zhao discovered the program at the end of his sophomore year through a letter from MC. When he read that the program provides 60 college credits and an associate degree, he felt like it was an obvious choice. By the time junior year rolled around, he was ready to make the leap.
Zhao did not leave Sherwood behind completely. Although he attends all of his classes at MC, he stays connected through participation on Sherwood’s swim team and, of course, hanging out with his friends. Balancing a college-level workload and a ‘normal’ high school life is difficult, but Zhao seems to take it in stride.
“I had two years [of the traditional high school experience], so I got that, but you give up a lot of stuff,” said Zhao. In his case, a healthy sleep schedule was the first thing to go. “I didn’t understand the term ‘all-nighter’ until I started the program. It’s real college; it’s a lot of work.”
Currently, Zhao is taking four courses at MC. Like most students, he goes to school five days a week, but his school days are much shorter than a full-day schedule at Sherwood. Students in the Early College Program are expected to study independently, outside of the classroom. “It’s like taking all APs, but you only meet two or three times per week for each class,” said Zhao. He considers the college style of learning to be more challenging than what he experienced in his two years at Sherwood, but it is “rewarding in its own way.”
After graduation, Zhao plans to attend a four-year college. Some schools on his list accept MC credits and others do not; regardless, Zhao has no regrets. “It’s all about moving forward and not forgetting to have fun,” said Zhao.