Having just graduated from NHS South, Uma Rao has already earned her first college credential after completing a series of Early College classes during her high school career. “I’m graduating in the Summer 2024 semester with my lead teacher certification in early childhood education,” said Uma in June.

“With this certificate, I can work full time as a qualified preschool teacher, nanny, babysitter, or even have a leg up when applying for a part time position in elementary schools.”

Next, Uma is working through summer to raise money for college. “I’m attending Bridgewater State University in the fall as an art education major.

"Thanks to my NCC credits – I took some general education credits as well – I’ve shaved off a whole year.”

While her art education goals might require an additional major, the general education classes would be satisfied by the NCC classes. 

“I was inspired to take early childhood education courses because a couple were offered through my high school as part of the Careers in Education program. At the time, I thought I might want to become an elementary teacher or an early childhood instructor so I took additional ECE courses outside of the Careers in Education program to pursue this passion.”

New Hampshire high schoolers can take two Early College classes each academic year for free through Early College – at your High School, Early College – on a College Campus, or Early College – Online.

The experience required strong time management skills, especially during a packed senior year. “I feel the most challenging aspect of this experience was definitely the course load. I had to manage my time efficiently, constantly!”

Uma was also balancing high school honors courses with work and volunteering at the YMCA, with the Interact Club, and for the National Art Honor Society. During her senior year, she added college application tasks and an AP course her schedule. “So yeah, now add another 2 college courses to the list? It was not easy.”

However, her work paid off. “I was surprised to learn at how attainable good grades in college courses can be.” While Uma said it might just be her experience with her class selection, it was still a relief after the tone of some AP courses. “AP courses can make us high schoolers feel like we’re not going to receive any support and we’re all going to fail all our courses. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that that is not the case and professors are ready to help when you just ask.”

Considering Early College for yourself? Check out Uma’s top advice:

1) Do what suits you the best. If you know you learn better online, sign up for online courses. If you know you learn better in-person, sign up for in-person courses. College is not high school. There is more learning flexibility available.

2) Make sure your courses will transfer. You want to make sure you know that these courses will transfer to whatever 4-year college you want to attend later in life. There are already many colleges in NH that have an agreement with NCC to accept all or a large majority of their credits. All you have to do is a Google search. If you’re applying to a college outside of NH, just reach out to their undergraduate admissions officers. If you’re not entirely sure what college you want to attend, speak to your NCC advisor to take courses most likely transfer everywhere (these are usually general education credits).

3) Factor in your limits both socially and mentally. As mentioned before, I was already a busy bee before taking college courses. But thanks to COVID, I was used to a pretty quiet social life. So, I was able to find the time and energy in my busy schedule to take 2 extra college courses every semester (for the record, I did take 3 college courses during the Summer 2023 semester while working full time at my part time job).


She noted another helpful tip for scheduling is to make use of your high school’s “free period” if you have one for taking an Early College class. “When I started college courses, [NCC Early College Coordinator] Michelle Grimm recommended I take 1 college courses for every modified block I had. We have 4 blocks per semester so if I took 2 modified blocks, I can take 2 college courses. This way, I am only taking 4 courses in total (2 high school courses + 2 college courses) and nothing feels too overwhelming.”


“I did not listen to this advice because I wanted to take as many courses available in my high school as possible. High school is the last time education is free so I didn’t want to waste it on AP courses (I did take AP Studio Art senior year but that’s because I love art and I learned a lot from that course) or squander it by taking modified blocks. So, I took a full load of high school courses while taking a part time load of college courses. I was extremely grateful that college semesters ended earlier than high school semesters because it gave me a decent amount of time to study for midterms and finals. But this was what I did. These are my values on education. If you feel that a modified block would give you more time to focus on college courses, go for it.”


Lastly, Uma emphasized the convenience of online learning – for the right student. “If you are great at online learning I would heavily recommend it, at least during the school year. My precalculus course was in person and I found it really difficult to find time to sit in that class for 2 hours and 15 minutes two times a week and then still do the homework outside of that course. It was too time consuming because of my busy schedule. So, I definitely found my online courses much easier to time manage. But I would only recommend doing this if you know you’re independent enough to study asynchronously. If you need to take a course in-person, factor that course’s in-person time into your schedule on top of the necessary outside study time.”

Learn more about Early Childhood Education & Early College

Nashua Community College has an Early Childhood Education associate degree pathway, as well as a Lead Teacher and Associate Lead Teacher certificate pathways. Learn more at nashuacc.edu.

Early College courses are available for New Hampshire high school sophomores, juniors or seniors or homeschool students 15 years old and older. Students can take Early College classes a their high schools, on a college campus, or online. 

Students can also take up to 2 free Early College classes per academic year with the Early College Scholarship. 

To learn more, contact Early College Coordinator Michelle Grimm at 603-578-6915, or [email protected]

Have an alumni story you’d like to share? Contact our Alumni Network team at [email protected]

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