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Frequently Asked Questions

Should I do Running Start?  Is it right for me?

Bellevue College has orientation sessions to fully explain the program, including potential benefits and risks.  Everyone should attend as part of their application process to learn more.  A few important issues to consider before deciding if Running Start is right for you:

Academic Skills:  

Academic traits necessary for success in college classes include highly organized self-management, proactive problem-solving, and self-advocating skills.  Solid study habits, excellent test-taking and preparation skills, strong communication in written format under time constraints, and the ability to comfortably interact with adults are a must.  Personal motivation for academic success and ability to get help when needed on your own are important.  

Remember that you are entering a collegiate learning environment, a high-stakes test/essay performance-driven grading system, where only a handful of major tests/papers/projects will constitute your entire grade.  Classroom participation and homework assignments represent a small portion of the overall grade if at all, but must be done to prepare for assessments.  


Personal Readiness


A high level of maturity and goal-oriented academic motivation will bring success.  In addition to deciding if your academic skill is a good fit to begin college early through the Running Start system, you must make a purely personal decision about how moving to a collegiate setting with change your high school experience and how your future college experience will be impacted by starting early.  Running Start represents a significant environmental change.  For students who thoroughly enjoy and are very involved in the traditional high school experience, this may be a painful shift that represents a loss.  For students who feel they emotionally have grown past the high school social scene, who seek a more mature multi-generational environment, this can be a very positive change.

Do you love the traditional high school environment, or do you want an entirely different experience in an adult setting (average age at BC being 30 years old)?  The average college student has a job, a busy day outside of school, and generally isn't seeking social interaction primarily with teens.  At community college, you will be treated like an adult, and receive no special treatment or flexibility due to your Running Start designation.  Be prepared to work hard and grow as a student, and to have to learn new strategies to succeed in a collegiate environment.  You own the outcome, and parents cannot problem-solve on your behalf.  Parents must trust that you are can manage your education independently. You will start a permanent college-level transcript, which will impact your future plans and higher-level college prospects.  

Parents: Please note that while Running Start can be an excellent opportunity for the right student, it can represent a serious risk for others. College instructors do not notify parents or high schools when a student is failing or not attending class. College instructors do not inform parents or the high school of student progress in college courses or whether a student has dropped the class. Poor performance in Running Start can result in significant loss of credit, permanent harm both high school and college transcripts, and dismissal from the Running Start program.  

Transferring College Credits:

Community college credits earned through Running Start are not guaranteed to apply to ANY four-year college later.  Transfer of credits depends on four-year college you choose to attend.  In-state public colleges are a part of the same higher education system as the community colleges, and  are required to take all of your BC transfer credits.  

Some private colleges and other state public college will accept Running Start credit, and others will not -- the only way to know is to consult with each college of interest to you.  Highly selective four-year colleges are much less likely to accept community college credits and generally prefer that a student stays in high school and takes AP classes and takes the AP exams for potential college.   

Sounds great, how/when do I sign up?

Students are responsible for starting the application process with the community college they wish to attend within the application window that college offers.  Each college has its own application process/timeline, and students should consult the college websites for details.  The most common community college for our students is Bellevue College, and students should plan to consult the following website between mid-winter and spring breaks to initiate a BC Running Start application:  Other community colleges like Renton Tech, Lake Washington Tech and Seattle Central have their own individually-defined application processes, but the time frame is the same as BC's, and the COMPASS entrance test is a part of each college's application.

Once students have completed the COMPASS test, they will eventually need to meet with their Counselor to have their HS Enrollment Verification form signed.  For fall quarter, these meetings should occur in early May.  In this meeting, the student and counselor will discuss graduation requirements, course selection recommendations, and any other grade-level appropriate guidance topics.  The signed HS Enrollment Verification is essentially the Running Start student's tuition check, and the student is responsible for submitting the form to the Running Start office before registration begins.

New Running Start students will then attend an orientation session at the community college, and then register themselves for their courses.

Can I take both IHS & Running Start classes?  

Yes! Students can pursue full-time Running Start (all classes at the community college) or part-time Running Start schedule (some classes at college, some at high school) -- the total combination of classes must add up to an overall full-time student status.  Full-time Running Start enrollment is 12-15 college credits.  A student taking less than 12 credits at the college must take high school classes to complete their required full-time enrollment.  Students must decide on a consistent on year-long distribution of classes, as it is not generally possible to change the plan mid-year.

Can I start Running Start in the middle of the school year?

No.  While the high school year has two semester, community colleges run on a quarter-based system.  This means that each semester at the high school spans more than one quarter at the community college, so by the end of 1st semester, Running Start students are in the middle of Winter Quarter.  There is no smooth, successful way to transition from one system into the other.  It is crucial for students to think seriously about their options and commit to a Running Start plan for the entire year, and make it work. 


Now that I'm preparing to register, how do I decide which classes to take?

Priority 1: make a plan to meet your remaining high school graduation requirements.  Priority 2: plan other college-prep requirements and courses of interest around grad requirements.  Nearly every high school grad requirement has an equivalent course at BC, consult this planning/equivalency sheet for detail.  RTC has in-depth technical programs, and far fewer academic courses to meet core HS requirements, so students typically wait until senior year to pursue RTC.  

Courses completed at the community college are transcribed for grades and credit on both your high school and community college transcripts, and these grades will factor into your cumulative GPA on both transcripts.

How many credits can/should I take?

Washington state law dictates that students must meet a certain number of total classes across educational opportunities to meet overall "full-time student" status.  Additionally, WA state law sets a cap for total number of credits that can be taken tuition-free through Running Start (incorporating any IHS classes into this equation).  Counselors can provide more specific details, but generally speaking a full-time Running Start student will take 15 college credits each quarter (equivalent to 3.0 HS credits).  Part-time Running Start students generally take either 2 classes at IHS and 2 at BC each quarter (2x2), though other options do exist.  Consult your counselor for more specific information.

Can I take Algebra 2 through Running Start?

College-level math starts above the Algebra 2 level, usually at Precalculus.  Running Start funds can only be used for college-level classes, those with a course code at the 100 or above level.  Courses below numbered below the 100 level represent high school level classes, and students are expected to take these courses at high school.  

While we recommend against it, students can opt to take Algebra 2 equivalent classes (in the 90-level) as "enrichment students," which means the family pays tuition and can mean a separate application.  For courses below the 100 level, the credit value at high school is reduced.  Where a 5-credit class at the 100-level or above equates to 1.0 high school credit, a course below the 100 level equates to a 0.5 semester credit on the high school transcript.  


    Now that I am ready to start my first quarter, what else should I keep in mind?

    • Transportation: 
      You must have your own reliable transportation or your ability to attend will be compromised.  If necessary, some find that they like public transportation and some don't.  Depending on peers for a ride can often leave you without a reliable way to get to class or get home and people's schedules change.  Class schedules change every three months for everyone and what works one quarter might not work the rest of the year.  Running Start students are not given special consideration in the parking lottery.  Part-time Running Start students are not given attendance leniency at either school, so students must carefully plan their schedules allowing for consistent attendance at all classes, accounting for travel times and Wednesday schedule. 

    • Transitioning to a New Environment: 
      Please be aware that starting college is a major transition and you will need time to adjust.  We recommend that you allow yourself time and space in your first quarter or two to get used to the college environment, determining the work load and study commitment necessary for success before adding new obligations like a new job or increased hours in an existing job.

      IHS is a Closed Campus: Students are not permitted on campus during the school day when they do not have a class scheduled, unless they have an appointment with a school official.  This is to ensure that we can account for all students on campus in case of an emergency.  Students with a part-time Running Start schedule may not arrive at IHS early and spend time in the Commons or Library doing homework, for example.