What is Early College?

Simply, Early College is a term that means students take college courses while still in high school. This might be online, live on campus, or through concurrent enrollment. Concurrent enrollment means that you are taking the high school course at your school.

However you engage in Early College, our teams are here to support you and answer your questions. Our goal is to prepare students for college-level coursework while easing the transition to higher education.

Who is Eligible?

  • To enroll in early college you must be enrolled in high school or be a registered homeschooler in your state.
  • You may take courses that have no prerequisites or courses where you have already obtained the required prerequisites.
  • Priority is given to juniors and seniors, but sophomores and freshmen may take courses if they can provide proof of academic readiness. (some campuses may have other criteria)
  • Some math and language courses may require placement testing to assure course fit.

What does it cost?

  • Through the Maine DOE aspirations funding, Maine state students attending a public high school or registered homeschool may take up to 12 credits, tuition free. Any credits over 12 will be billed at the discounted Early College rate of $138.25
  • Students who pay tuition to attend their high school (private or public) are eligible for a discounted tuition rate of $138.25 per credit.
  • Students are required to purchase their textbooks, ebooks, and any course specific fees (Such as art supplies or lab fees) All other fees have been waived.
  • Some campuses may allow out of state students to apply for courses.

What do all these terms mean?

If you’ve never taken a college course or you have had limited experience with a college campus, there is a lot of terminology that universities or colleges use. We want to take a minute to give you the inside scoop on what some of those words and some of our concepts mean.

  • Academic Integrity/Plagiarism: This is the expectation that teachers, students, researchers, and all members of the academic community act with honesty, trust, fairness, respect, and responsibility. You may know that copying some or all of someone else’s work and claiming it as your own is plagiarism but is also when you use a quote and don’t properly cite it. When in doubt; ask.
  • Credit Hour: Each course is assigned a certain number of credit hours, usually corresponding to how often class occurs and how long classes are, as well as the course difficulty. Many classes earn a student 3 to 4 credit hours. To be considered full-time, a student must be taking at least 12 credits per semester.
  • Electives: Most bachelor’s degrees require a student to complete a combination of specific courses and electives. Electives are courses the student chooses to take from a list of offerings that fulfill general education requirements, or any courses outside the student’s major
  • FERPA: This stands for Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act. This law protects the privacy of educational records for students. Even if you are not yet 18, this means we can not speak to your parent about your enrollment, bills, or grades without a waiver signed by you.
  • First generation: Refers to students who are the first in their families to attend college or whose parents didn’t complete a college degree. Many schools have special offices or programs to provide guidance to first-generation students.
  • Prerequisite: Many college classes must be taken sequentially — in a certain order, from lower to higher level. A prerequisite is a course a student must complete before taking another specific course.
  • Syllabus: An outline of what a course will require and teach you. It includes required textbooks and other study materials along with dates of assignments, papers, and exams. The professor’s contact information and office hours will also be listed. Reading and following the syllabus is a key success tool for college students!

What are the benefits of Early College?

The benefits of Early College are many:

  • High school students who enroll in early college courses are more likely to graduate high school, enroll in college, and earn a college degree. As a result, students are more prepared and successful in their chosen career paths.
  • Students build a college transcript while still in high school. The college credits earned are transferable. While we hope students will attend one of Maine’s Public Universities or Community Colleges, these credits may be transferred to other colleges.
  • Students will need to check with their institution about transferring credits when they enroll.
  • Universities may offer a variety of courses not available at the high school. Some programs offer pathways to a career that can help students navigate through college to future employment, or explore interests before choosing a major.
  • Students who participate in Early College have better study skills, more academic confidence, and less anxiety about the transition to college.

Why should I take a course?

The commitment shown by students participating in both high school and college-level courses at the same time demonstrates to admissions offices, scholarship boards, and internship committees a student’s dedication to achieving their educational goals.

How is AP different?

AP courses are more rigorous than traditional high school courses and allow for potential college credit. Students must typically earn scores of 3 or better on AP exams to allow them to skip lower-level courses in college.

Early College courses are also more rigorous than high school courses and are the same courses taken by college students. As long as a student successfully completes a course, they earn the credit.

Where AP requires you to pay for an exam, Early College requires you to pay for your textbook.

Studies show that students that do either or both have higher chances of completing their degree on time and transition into college easier.

Do the credits transfer?

Within the University System, credits transfer easily within MaineStreet. We can not determine how another institution will view your courses. If you plan to go to a private institution or a school out of state, please contact them to discuss how your credits will transfer.

What should I know about these courses?

There is no A+ in the University scale, A is the highest grade. Your professor’s syllabus will show you the expectations and grade scale for the course.

Other grading terms:

  • AU= Audit (taking the course without credit)
  • I=Incomplete, will convert to F if work is not submitted
  • L=Stopped attending, same as an F
  • W=Withdrew, shows on transcript but does not impact GPA
  • WF= Withdrew in last 40% of course, impacts GPA

Course Modes:

  • WW means online anytime
  • DS means online but on specific days/times
  • P means in person
  • HB means hybrid of online/in person
  • HY means hyflex, your choice of online or live

How do I apply?

How do I apply, set up an ExplorEC account, and choose a course?

Before you are enrolled in a course you must first have an account in our online application portal. You create an account once and then use it each semester afterward. Please note that we will be creating an official University of Maine system account based on this information, so please make sure it is accurate (preferred names are not nicknames). This portal is only for the application process and will not contain your actual course.

  • How to apply: All students apply through the ExplorEC portal, explorec.maine.edu. Log into or create your account: Choose high school student and log into or create your account. If you forgot your password, do not create a new account. Please email explorecaccounts@maine.edu for password reset assistance.
  1. Search and Apply for a course: You have the ability to choose several options when looking for a class. Choose your term, campus, and subject to begin. If you are taking a course at your high school, click the tab Class(es) in my High School.
  2. Signatures: Students and parents must sign an agreement each semester they apply. This acknowledges that they will follow student codes of conduct, and responsible for tuition as appropriate.
  3. School Counselor Approval: Once an application is received, school counselors will see the application in their portal. They will complete the recommendation.
  4. Campus Enrollment: After a student applies, signs, has a parent signature, & a counselor approval, the application is complete. Your chosen campus can now enroll you.

What is a complete application?

A complete application has a course(s), a student signature, a parent signature and a school counselor approval.

I’m enrolled; what are my next steps?

Once your application is complete and we enroll you in your selected course(s) you must activate your University of Maine account. This is important even if you are taking the course at your high school. This will give you access to orientation, your university email and many other tools

  1. Activate your University account: The campus that enrolled you in your course will send you activation information. You will only have to do this once.
  2. Log into your student Portal: Once you have an active account, you can log into your University of Maine Portal: mycampus.maine.edu You might want to bookmark this.
  3. Complete your Orientation online: From your mycampus portal, click the orange circle with the white B. This will open Brightspace. Here you will find your Early College orientation listed as a course.
  4. Read your syllabus:  Read your syllabus completely. This is your roadmap of your course. If you don’t understand something, ask your instructor.
  5. Contact our staff: If you have questions about access or just need some help, please reach out to one of our staff. We love what we do and we want to help you!
  6. Advising/Pathways: Interested in exploring a career pathway? Our teams would love to help you figure out what courses make sense for your goals.

We want you to be successful. This is why we have dedicated options to assist you. It is also why we impose deadlines and require orientation. We want you to be prepared and at your best as you engage in higher education.

How do I earn an A in my course?

Complete Orientation: By participating in orientation you will learn about student support services and resources, and become familiar with policies and procedures acquire knowledge and entry-level proficiency in select academic and personal success skills know whom to contact to ask questions and express concerns.

Advising: Connect with your Early College staff often! We have insight into courses that fit into your schedule and interests. Confused about a process or need access to something? Our staff can help! Want to know more about our universities and what they have to offer? We can connect you to the departments on our campuses that can help answer your questions.

Be Tech Savvy: Make sure you are checking your university email daily. You can access this at mycampus.maine.edu Make sure you have activated your account and accessed BrightSpace prior to the start of your course. This is your online classroom and you need to be familiar with it to be successful.

Ask Questions: Have a question about your course? Reach out to your professor. They would rather talk to you about a problem you are experiencing than see you continue to struggle. They are there to help you. You can click on the envelope in BrightSpace to automatically email them!

What if I am struggling? What support does Early College offer?

Tutoring: Students who do well in high school often find that when attempting a college-level course, they need extra help. Our campuses have tutoring options and Early College students have free NetTutor online access.

Mental Health Support: Sometimes you just need a little extra help . All students at our campuses have access to the Silvercloud app. This self-help tool is free of charge if you are taking courses with us!

ADA Compliance: Students who have 504 plans or IEPs in their high schools often feel that they wish to attempt college- level courses without these plans in place. There is a better way to approach this topic. Because a college course is more rigorous than a high school course, students are encouraged to reach out for support. Some of the services provided or coordinated for students with disabilities include testing accommodations, note- takers, ordering alternate format texts, classroom relocation, and advisement on disability issues.

Contact us! We are here to support you in every way that we can. If you are struggling to complete a course, reach a professor, or have any other questions just reach out to us; we’re here to help!

For Parents

College courses are very different from the high school curriculum. As your student takes on this challenge it is important to support them while encouraging them to be independent. We encourage them to look for answers instead of just supplying them. Teaching students to be their own advocates will help the with the transition to higher education.


Our team is happy to assist parents and students. We want to encourage you to reach out to the Early College Programs at each University of Maine campus. Although your questions and comments are very important to us, please be aware that the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) guidelines prevent us from providing any detailed information about student accounts, enrollment, billing, etc.

We understand that in many cases, your student is a minor and you are responsible for their care, education, transportation, and other bills. Because FERPA is a Federal Law, regardless of the student’s age, our responses provide general information only, without a student FERPA consent.

Students typically receive a series of emails that explain where to find everything they need for their courses, however if you would like to speak with us, your student will need to submit a FERPA consent in the ExplorEC portal.

As part of the application process, students and parents must sign a consent form. This assures that you both understand that these courses are REAL college courses that create permanent transcripts. It also confirms that you understand the costs and waivers involved.

Billing and DOE Information

Early College is free for qualified students who may earn up to 12 free credit hours per year beginning with the summer semester (Example: Summer 2022, Fall 2022, Spring 2023). This total includes courses taken at Maine’s Public Universities and Maine’s Community Colleges.

Maine’s high school Early College students will not pay any fees except course specific materials or travel/housing fees (e.g. lab materials, art supplies, field trips, summer programs that include room and board).

The Maine Department of Education has additional information available on their website (External Site).

Which students qualify for Aspirations funding? Note: This is per Maine State Statue (External Site), not per University of Maine System policy.

  • Publicly funded high school students
  • Students who attend a high school or academy classified as a Private Schools Approved for the Receipt of Public Funds and who are not private pay tuition (taxpayer dollars pay tuition for public students to attend these schools such as Fryeburg Academy or Thornton Academy)
  • Homeschool students who have registered with their local school district and the Maine Department of Education
  • International students who are living with a host family, attending school per a Superintendents agreement, and are NOT paying tuition to that school (for example exchange program students)

Which students do not qualify for Aspirations funding?

Note: This is per Maine State Statue, not per University of Maine System policy.

  • Students who attend private schools and pay tuition
  • International students who are paying tuition to a public or private high school
  • Any Maine student who is paying tuition to attend a public or private high school
  • Any out of state student
  • Homeschooled students who do not register with the Department of Education
  • Graduating seniors will no longer be eligible to participate in the Aspirations program for the summer session at the end of their senior year, regardless of course start date.

How much do students pay if they do not qualify for Aspirations funding?

  • Maine high school students will be billed the Early College tuition rate.
  • The Early College tuition rate for Maine students is currently $138.25/credit but is subject to change when tuition rates change
  • High school students will not pay any fees other than course specific materials or travel/housing fees, even if they do not qualify for Aspirations funding.
  • Students not attending a Maine high school should contact the Early College Administrator at the campus they wish to attend to learn more about costs for out-of-state students.

Additional Notes

  • Students are responsible for their own textbooks/E-texts/online access codes
  • If a student takes more than 12 credits per year, they are billed for each credit they are over at the Early College tuition rate. This is currently $138.35/credit but is subject to change when tuition rates change.

We are here to Help! Contact us with any additional questions!

The University of Maine is an EEO/AA employer and does not discriminate on the grounds of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, transgender status, gender expression, national origin, citizenship status, age, disability, genetic information or veteran’s status in employment, education, and all other programs and activities. The following person has been designated to handle inquiries regarding non-discrimination policies: Director of Equal Opportunity, 101 Boudreaux Hall, University of Maine, Orono, ME 04469-5754, 207.581.1226, TTY 711 (Maine Relay System).