These College Prep High Schools in GR Help Students Earn Free College Credits

College Prep High Schools are a Thing and Here’s How They Give Students an Edge

Imagine a high school decorated with college pennants up and down the hallways, and student lockers plastered with college acceptance notes. There’s even a College Decision Day celebration, where students are acknowledged for their hard work and accomplishments. 

Everyone there has the same post-graduation goal — a college degree — and the entire building is committed to helping each student meet this goal.

“Creating that sense of possibility can encourage students to remain focused on their long-term goals, or push them past their comfort zone to reach new heights,” says Dr. Barry Hall II, Manager of Charter Through College Programs for GVSU’s Charter Schools Office. 

This is what a college prep charter public high school in West Michigan looks like. If your child has the same dreams, they will love the support and excitement they’ll receive at a school like this. 

Student graduate at college prep school

College Prep High Schools Give Kids Multiple Options for College 

I went to a traditional public high school in a rural area. While I had eyes for college, I didn’t have a lot of money for it. I love that my high school offered AP courses, but the cost to take the AP exams (about $125) to earn college credit was a barrier to me so I never took them. 

West Michigan students have options that I never did: they can earn college credits for free through early college programs, in addition to the AP offerings. They can attend college prep schools that not only give them college credit opportunities, but have staff and support systems in place to help students reach all of their college goals. 

Students at a college prep charter public high school learn time management, study skills and how to set and achieve goals. For a lot of kids, these skills are not in place when they step onto a college campus. They weren’t for me, and I had to learn fast. All the college prep high school kids definitely had a leg up on me in my first year at Michigan State. 

GVSU charter public schools include College prep schools

College is Viewed as a Real Possibility at College Prep Schools

According to Dr. Hall, the first step to getting kids to college is helping them see college as a real possibility. Schools like Grand River Preparatory High School do this by creating a college-going culture that can be seen throughout the school, with the college decorated walls and students receiving “College Accepted” t-shirts. 

Collin Louis is an alumnus of Grand River Prep and a senior at GVSU studying biomedical science. He says being in an environment like that also encouraged him to take on more responsibility for himself and others, which further prepared him for college.

I had the chance to be in a mentorship program where I would help first-year Grand River Prep students prepare for what to expect. That really helped me grow from a leadership aspect,” says Collin. “It also gave me the tools to be successful once I left Grand River Prep, even down to things like having a good sense of time management.”

Grand River Prep school graduate, Collin Louis, is a college prep success story

AP Classes Aren’t Limited to Junior and Senior Students With Good Grades

Before Collin’s first day of class at GVSU, he had already earned 10 college credits! He landed those credits through passing his AP classes and exams in high school.

AP classes are a great way for high school students to experience the rigor of college-level coursework. Students who take AP courses can earn college credit before they graduate and show colleges they are ready for courses that are more challenging than introductory level classes.

AP courses can save students time and money by helping them earn their diploma sooner.

Historically, AP classes were only available to junior or senior-level students with good grades. College prep charter public high schools eliminate that barrier by giving every student more opportunities to take AP classes and earn more college credits. 

At Grand River Prep, students can start taking AP classes in the 9th grade. In fact, students at Grand River Prep must pass two AP classes in order to get their diploma. This means the staff at Grand River Prep go the extra mile to ensure all students are understanding the content so everybody has the chance to earn those AP college credits

“We make college-level rigor accessible to all students and expect all students to succeed through the tons of support we provide. It’s at the heart of what we do,” says principal Koree Woodward.

“Our model is pretty unique compared to the systems and expectations that are common in traditional high school settings.”

male student in college prep school hallway

College Prep Students Can Earn a Tuition-Free Degree Through Early College Programs

While AP classes have become a well-known option for high school students, there is a rapidly growing trend that is creating a new pathway for post-high school success: early college programs.

Schools that offer an early college program give students a distinct path to earn college credits (non-AP) for free while concurrently earning their high school diploma. 

The early college program at Grand River Prep, for example, is a five-year education plan where students complete high school in three years and go on to earn up to 60 college credits for an associate degree while still receiving support from school counselors, advisors, and an academic coach.

Grand River Prep champions any student seeking a college degree, regardless of their interests. 

Rather than limiting students to one field or industry of study, Grand River Prep’s early college program is designed to offer multiple pathways for students to continue their studies once they earn their degree or certificate.

Students Receive Hands-on Education Grounded in Real-World Experience

When kids go to college, they are exposed to world-class facilities and resources to support their learning so they can thrive when they start their careers. 

But college prep charter public high schools don’t make students wait for the college campus before they can get their hands on cutting-edge resources

West Michigan Aviation Academy is a charter public high school that lets students delve into the aviation industry in hands-on classes at Gerald R. Ford Airport.

They have access to aviation professionals that work at the airport each day, and experience the fine details of aviation firsthand through four distinct pathways: flight science, aerospace engineering, aviation maintenance, and aviation business administration.

And while flight classes all day is a pretty thrilling prospect, these students also complete the same core classes that other high schools require. 

Students who choose the flight science path even get the chance to earn their private pilot certification. They can also immerse themselves in STEM courses and graduate with a STEM endorsement that sets them apart on college and career applications as well as during interviews and scholarship competitions.


Attending a school full of like-minded students striving for the same goals is super encouraging for kids. There is literally support everywhere, and everyone understands the excitement and challenges of earning a college degree. 

Schools Mentioned in this Article:

Grand River Preparatory High School
650 52nd St SE, Kentwood, MI 49548

West Michigan Aviation Academy
5363 44th Street SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49512

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