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Reader Response: Early Enrollees

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Next Monday, USC football will welcome 9 new student-athletes, who are ready to enroll for the spring semester.

While early enrollees are a growing trend in college football, the process is not nearly as easy as you would think, which prompted a series of questions from astute blog reader Jonathan Bates.

So, I posed all of his questions (and some of mine) to Donna Heinel (pictured below), the assistant admissions coordinator inside Heritage Hall.

donna-heinel.jpgQ: Can you tell me how a high school senior can enroll early?  

A: "Graduation requirements are really set by the high school."

Q: Does it vary by (high school) school district?

A: "Some district's bylaws do not allow students to graduate early.  A lot of archdiocese and religious-based schools will not allow it."

Q: What are the university and NCAA requirements?

A: "You have to fulfill the requirements of the NCAA also, which is 16 core courses in the appropriate disciplines in seven semesters instead of eight.  The second semester of English and American Government/Economics are mandatory to graduate by California code, so you need to put that in your junior year or the summer prior to your senior year."

Q: When do you have to make the decision?

A: "You have to make the decision to graduate early during the first semester of your junior year because you have to double up a lot of courses and take summer courses to get your high school requirements done.  You really can't make the decision to graduate in the middle of your fall semester senior year because you will not finish the 16 core courses."

Q: What specific challenges does USC face to get early enrollees?

A: "West coast schools go back to school very early in January, so it is more difficult to get everything complete with their high school and get everything cleared with the NCAA by the start of the spring semester.  Also, a lot of high schools do not mirror the college semester system, so their fall term ends at the end of January.  In those cases, you have to get the buy in of the entire school to graduate."

Q: Does the student-athlete need to be exceptional academically?

A: "Before it was for the academic elite, but that is changing.  It actually provides a better opportunity for the academically at-risk students, so they get an entire semester under their belt to adjust to college without the pressure of football.  When you enter in the fall term, you are inundated with so much that it puts you at risk for failure."

Q: Finally, how is the process different for junior college transfers?

A: "A JC kid has to go through the process of NCAA certification out of high school.  If you are a qualifier, you can come to a university after just one semester.  For non-qualifiers, you cannot go to a Division-1 school unless you fulfill certain types of requirements, which includes three full-time terms, 48 transferable units and your AA degree.  If you have fulfilled all of those requirements, you can enroll mid-year."

Matt Barkley was one of the first students ever to be allowed to graduate early from Mater Dei.

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