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Edgecombe Early College accepting applications

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Edgecombe Early College High School Principal Matt Smith talks with student Heather Pernell at the school.

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By Amelia Harper
Staff Writer

Friday, January 29, 2016

TARBORO-- The race for admission to Edgecombe Early College High School is on as the school is now accepting applications for freshman for the 2016-17 academic year.

Dozens of prospective students and their families attended an information session held Monday night held on the campus of Edgecombe Community College where the Early College classes are held. The school is accepting applications through Feb. 19 and will notify students of acceptance at the end of March.

Joanna Rogers, a parent who attended the information session, said that she has already had one child enrolled in the Edgecombe Early College and was impressed by the experience. Now she is seeking enrollment for a second child.

“I want my daughter to have this chance to get an early start on college,” Rogers said.

The Edgecombe Early College High School has been impressing a good many people lately. The school has had a 100 percent graduation rate for the past five years, has a 100 percent college acceptance rate and is the only school in the Twin Counties to receive an A on the North Carolina school performance grades.

However, Matt Smith, the principal of the Early College High School, said the success of the school has given rise to some misconceptions about how students are selected for admission. With only 40 available slots for the coming year, competition for admission is necessarily tough, but Smith said that academics is not a primary consideration in the admissions process.

“We don't accept students solely on the basis of academic criteria. That could not be further from the truth,” said Smith. “Some people think that our results are so good because we select the cream of the crop, but we are not an elite private school.”

In fact, Smith said many of the students who come to the college lag behind in certain subjects and require additional help to bridge the gap and prepare them for the start of the college level studies in the third year.

Instead, Smith said the main focus of the school is to help students who are the first in their families to attend college. Last year, about 84 percent of students in the school fell in the category of first generation college students.

Smith said students do need to demonstrate enough academic mastery to show that they will be successful in an intensive five-year college prep program. Since students will take college level courses for much of their studies, Smith said it is important that they are able to reach college-level benchmarks by the end of their sophomore year.

Another factor that the selection committee considers is the student's attendance record. This aspect is important, Smith said, not only because of the commitment it shows, but because the attendance requirements for Edgecombe Community College are more stringent than those for public schools.

Smith also said the committee tries to consider the unique needs of every student who applies and selects those students that seem to be a better fit for the Early College experience than for traditional classrooms.

“We are looking more for compatibility than competition,” Smith said.

Students who attend the school will end their five-year college prep program by receiving an associates degree that can also be applied to a four-year college degree. However, they will not receive the frills, such as sports, band, chorus and ROTC, that many students associate with a normal high school experience.

Instead, Smith said, the focus is on building academic success and more intangible qualities such as grit and resilience.

This common mission is part of the “secret sauce” that makes for the success of the Edgecombe Early College High School, Smith said.

“Everyone in our school knows why they are here,” Smith said. “They come here to fulfill a mission.”

Students who wish to apply for admission can find out more by going to the school district's website at http://www.ecps.us/Domain/11.

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