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I get asked every now and then why Marshall does not offer the Colleges in The School (CITS) program or promote Post Secondary Education Options (PSEO) for our students. After all, as a college prep school, shouldn’t we be promoting opportunities for students to take “college” courses when they are in HS?

I don’t know that we should. We’re college prep, after all — not college.

Instead, I think it is best that we provide the best preparation for students to be successful in their best-fit college — be it here in Duluth, at a fine Minnesota school (say St. Olaf, my alma mater), or at an East Coast Ivy.

That’s a broad range of preparation best served with a nationally or internationally normed curriculum such as the Advanced Placement or the International Baccalaureate (rather than a local college course).

As our Director of College Counseling, Katie Voller-Berdan tells families: “The CITS courses at local public schools are taken from curriculum developed by local 2-year colleges. The colleges Marshall students are applying to recognize this and tend not to award students credit. Many of the colleges Marshall students end up enrolling at don’t tend to accept the credit, and instead, require students to take placement tests as colleges are finding the entire curriculum they cover wasn’t covered in the CITS course.”

As Glenn Sharfman, vice president and dean for academic affairs at Manchester College in Indiana, wrote in a recent article for Inside Higher Ed: “Colleges feel better about accepting credits when students demonstrate mastery of material on a recognized exam.”

This is why Marshall is very pleased to be partnering with the nationally recognized VHS program next year to offer 20 AP courses to students, who can study with talented peers located in the US and internationally. Courses on offer include: AP Art History, AP Calculus BC, AP Computer Science, AP Economics, AP Environmental Science, AP European History, AP Government and Politics, AP Music Theory, AP Physics C, AP Psychology, and AP Statistics.

Of course, there are circumstances when PSEO or CITS makes sense. if a student plans on later matriculating to UMD or St. Scholastica, then taking a PSEO from them could be a great way to get a credit out of the way or get some exposure to the campus or the culture. If a student has exhausted or topped out of the curriculum at their high school, then they may need to go the PSEO route to get to the next level in a certain subject. That is when we tend to recommend PSEO to Marshall students, although the time issues in traveling to a local university to attend one course can make a mess of a student’s schedule. Our preference, whenever possible, is to keep everything on our campus.

Many parents are rightly intrigued by the opportunity to get some college credit out of the way in HS, at a much cheaper price. However, be careful if that discount comes at the expense of your child’s readiness for higher-level college work.