Of the 2,177 students currently enrolled at Palo Alto High School, there are several who may never step foot in another class at Paly past their sophomore year. Yet, they still graduate with their class. These students are taking part in an alternate education program known as Middle College. 

Middle College mechanics 

As Paly students approach junior year, they have the option to apply to Middle College, a program that gives the opportunity to take a majority of college classes while still technically in high school. Students in this program are only required to take two high school level classes; English and history, in small cohorts of 20 people within the Middle College program. The rest of the classes are specific to each student, as they choose from the wide variety of classes offered at Foothill College. 

Because the Middle College program follows the quarter system, with 11 to 12 week periods, students select courses quarterly instead of semesterly.

This quarter, junior Amanda Yun will take an environmental science class, an accompanying lab section and other specialized science classes, many of which are not offered at Paly. 

“I wanted to have more flexibility with my schedule and have the opportunity to take different classes,” Yun said. “Paly has a huge selection of courses for a high school but I wanted to take more specialized classes.” 


It’s a great opportunity to get used to the campus, meet new people, and experience how the classes are structured.”

–Ayaka Sonehara, senior


Similar to college, student’s schedules are dependent on what time the lecture and the lab of the class is — there is no uniform schedule for all students. 

“A lot of courses now at Foothill are in person which is a great opportunity to get used to the campus, meet new people and experience how the classes are structured,” senior Ayaka Sonehara said. 

During the 2021 fall quarter at Foothill, students can attend select in-person classes as long as they have proof of COVID-19 vaccination. 

Why Middle College?

For some students, the pandemic made them realize that taking online classes was more efficient and enjoyable. 

“My sister suggested that if school is going to stay online, why not just do college courses instead of high school courses,” junior Abdullah Navaid said.

However, senior Fiorella Marieh said the appeal of the program stemmed from how she felt it would prepare her for a four-year college in the future.

“I’m first-generation, so I thought it would give me the chance to be more prepared and it would help me so it would be much easier for me when I get into college,” Marieh said. “Since my parents didn’t have the chance to [go to college], they can’t help me out, but this will help me transition more smoothly.” 

Inversely, senior James Thomas said he was attracted to the program because of its simplified structure. 

 “Instead of having 13 to 14 different homework assignments over a certain amount of time, you’d have a couple projects and I find this to be a lot more manageable,” Thomas said.


Paly has a huge selection of courses for a high school but I wanted to take more specialized classes.” 

— Amanda Yun, junior


The Middle College program also provides students the opportunity to transfer to some of  California’s public universities. 

“You get to complete school early and take college level classes instead of APs,” Navaid said. “You get one year of actual college credits and if you stay one more year, you get enough credits to go to a UC.” 

With these benefits in mind, Yun recognizes Middle College may not be the right move for everyone, but can be a perfect fit for some. 

“[Middle College is great for] anyone who’s looking for a change; people who aren’t satisfied with their classes or teaching methods,” Yun said. “Or even anyone looking for something new. This is a great program.”