Students get a “Running Start” on their college plans


   College can cost thousands–often tens of thousands–of dollars. Although many students are not aware of it, there is a way to attend Rock Valley College as a Junior and graduate with a high school diploma and an associate’s degree: all tuition-free. 

   Running Start is a program where twenty selected RPS 205 sophomores attend Rock Valley College full time in their junior and senior years and will be able to acquire their high school diploma and two-year associate’s degree with free tuition at Rock Valley College (RVC). However, the student will be responsible for paying for their books and transportation to RVC. The criteria for the program is a cumulative 3.0 sophomore GPA and completion of Integrated Math 2, Chemistry, and two years of English all with a B or higher.

   “Our students who go to the program with clear long term academic goals really tend to thrive,” said Mrs. Sara Nielsen, Health and Production Academy counselor. “I’ve had some students enter the program knowing that they want to go on to vet school or med school once they graduate from college, so this helps them get to that goal faster.”

   To be eligible for the Running Start program, students must complete the enrollment form at After doing so, they should email Mrs. Nielsen at [email protected]. Next, the student should send their unique RVC student ID number and Mrs. Nielsen will set up a testing date. The testing dates are Tuesday, November 10th at 4:00 PM, Thursday, November 12th at 4:00 PM, and Tuesday, November 17th at 8:20 AM. After doing so, students will sign up for Accuplacer testing practices at

   “The program has clear academic criteria for students to apply,” said Mrs. Nielsen. “I think the students who meet the grade and GPA requirements and who pass the placement testing are academically ready for the program.” 

     The Accuplacer testing will be in Reading, Writing/English, and Math-QAS. Reading requires a score of at least 246, Writing/English requires a 250 or above, and a 257 on the Math-QAS test.

   “For me, the tests weren’t too challenging, especially since I had done many practice tests to help prepare myself,” said Lilliana Silver, a junior in the Running Start Program. “I don’t feel like any of the tests were more difficult than the others.”

   If successful on all three tests, then the student’s name will be placed in a lottery for a chance to be accepted into RVC. A student that has been picked will be sent an acceptance letter from Rock Valley College on January 25th, 2021. Students accepting those seats must send in their forms to the Early College offices at RVC by January 18th, 2021.

   While some may absolutely be thrilled to get into the program, some may argue that the program actually takes high school experience away from students and the extra stress is something that some may not be able to handle.

   “I wouldn’t say I felt happy when I found out,” said Victor Nunez, a senior in the Running Start Program. “I don’t know what the word would be but I felt a sense of obligation to do it. I didn’t really want to leave high school and my friends in high school but I knew my parents would be sort of disappointed. High school was just starting to get fun and I liked going to school to see my classmates. If you can’t handle being away from your friends or think that you are going to be very lonely, then honestly don’t do it, but if you know you have enough close friends and know you can see them in your free time then go for it. Evaluating those types of things is important in my opinion because you need to make sure that your mental health is going to be good going into this program.”

   Although the program is definitely not for everyone, students who are up to the task can use this opportunity to get an edge towards completing their college degree in fewer steps.

    “I would definitely recommend going into the program, but only for people who feel they’re prepared for the extra responsibilities it comes with,” said Lilliana. “The courses move at a much faster pace, there’s a heavier workload, it comes with more stress, so if someone is going to go for this program, I’d recommend they be fully prepared for the commitment.”