Accelerate Your Undergrad

February 28, 2015

Want to graduate from college early and jump into the professional world? Walnut Hill School for the Arts in Natick, MA, and New World School of the Arts in Miami, FL—two performing arts high schools—offer accelerated programs that allow students to complete college credits while they’re still in high school. The payoff? These students can graduate from college in three years instead of four.

Michael Owen, director of dance at Walnut Hill School for the Arts, teaching class (photo by coffeepond Photography, courtesy Walnut Hill School for the Arts)

At Walnut Hill, accelerated students have the option to start working toward their freshman year requirements at The Boston Conservatory. Michael Owen, director of dance at Walnut Hill, says, “Our accelerated program basically functions as early acceptance, and students are able to save a year of tutition.”

NWSA has a similar setup: Beginning sophomore year, all students enter NWSA’s dual-enrollment program and earn a total of 24 credits, accredited by Miami Dade College. “Our dual-enrolled students take classes like dance history and composition, taught by college professors but designed specifically to meet both high school and college credit requirements,” says Mary Lisa Burns, dean of dance at NWSA.

To qualify for the Walnut Hill program, dancers have to show technical and academic excellence from the beginning of their high school career. “The associate director of BOCO observes our sophomores,” Owen says. “As juniors, some of those students are invited to audition for the program. If they’re accepted, they have until December of their senior year to decide whether they want to do it.” Dancers who don’t get into the accelerated program aren’t prohibited from later applying to BOCO’s four-year BFA.

It sounds like a lot—completing high school and starting college at the same time. But Owen and Burns stress that highly motivated dancers who are already successful students thrive in their programs. “Our senior dancers take three classes at Walnut Hill which count for both high school graduation and freshman-year requirements at BOCO,” says Owen. So you’re not doubling up—you’re actually getting more bang for your buck.

Accelerate at Home

High exam scores on Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate tests could also help you fulfill college credits. Or consider enrolling in community college, where you can knock out core undergrad requirements.