GW Student Earns Associate’s Degree While Finishing High School

GW Early College Program gives Sebastian Corrales a jumpstart on his future.

Sebastian Corrales
Sebastian Corrales recently completed the GW Early College Program which allowed him to earn an associate of arts degree from GW and a high school diploma from the School without Walls. (Logan Werlinger/GW Today)
July 29, 2016

By Brittney Dunkins

Like most high-achieving students, Sebastian Corrales always thought he’d graduate from high school before entering the university of his choice to pursue his career aspirations.

But during his sophomore year at Benjamin Banneker High School, the industrious D.C. native decided to change course and enroll in the George Washington University Early College Program, designed in partnership with the D.C. public high school School Without Walls.

GWECP gave him the flexibility to pursue his passions at the collegiate level, while completing his high school requirements, Mr. Corrales said. In just two years, he earned an Associate in Arts degree at GW and a high school diploma.

“I‘ve always been independent, and I enjoy learning,” Mr. Corrales said. “I knew this program would be a perfect fit for me because I wanted to take control of my schedule and what I was learning.”

Mr. Corrales will enter GW as a junior this fall. Though it will be his first year living on campus, he said that he feels more than ready to take on the challenges of college life, from mastering the time management required to succeed with a full course load to taking responsibility for his academic success.

He credits GWECP for the preparation, which began with a “summer bridge” program that prepares incoming GWECP students for their classes through writing skills workshops and programming on the transition to college life.

Mr. Corrales said the high level of support continued throughout the program, whether it came from a GW professor offering advice during office hours, a GW staff member or teacher’s assistant providing academic support or a counselor at the School Without Walls.

While GWECP offered an unconventional high school experience, Mr. Corrales said that he “doesn’t regret a thing,” because he was able to fully explore his academic interests.

For example, he had the opportunity to assist Department of Speech and Hearing Science Director Shelley B. Brundage with a graduate research project translating Spanish language video interviews.

Mr. Corrales began the project making grammatical and spelling edits to video transcripts, but as the project progressed, he was able to take on increasingly difficult work. Now he is able to write Spanish language transcripts without assistance and intends to major in a foreign language.

“It’s just this rare opportunity,” he said. “How many people can say that they have been working on graduate level research since they were 16 years old?”

But the independence that GWECP offered wasn’t always easy to manage. Mr. Corrales said that it was a challenge and a privilege.

Mr. Corrales began GWECP with the intention of pursuing a focus in computer science because he has always been fascinated by computers and loves to tinker with electronics. However, GWECP allowed him to explore different interests, such as Spanish, psychology and politics.

“Most professors are very allowing,” he said. “You can sit in on their classes and see if a subject interests you.”

Mr. Corrales is fluent in Spanish because he attended a bilingual elementary and middle school. Last year, he took a 3000–level Spanish language course at GW on a whim, “just to see what is was like.” That impromptu decision led him to a new understanding of possibilities for his future career path.

It’s a great example of how GWECP gave him a unique opportunity to get an early start on his future, he said.

“One early class I remember, the professor said, ‘You are all adults, and I am going to treat you as such,’” Mr. Corrales said. “I realized that college is this really freeing experience, but it tests you.

“I’ve always been someone who looks ahead, and now I am confident I can make my own path.”