About Us

Buncombe County Early College 

The small size of Buncombe County Early College fosters strong and supportive relationships between teachers and students. The real-world connections the school makes helps students grasp the relevance of classroom instruction. We adhere to a set of five key design principles that underlie effective educational innovation:

  • Ready for College: A clear focus on preparing all students for college and work. 

  • Powerful Teaching and Learning: Instruction focuses on critical thinking, application and problem-solving skills often neglected in traditional settings.

  • Personalization: Students being known well is an essential condition of helping them achieve academically.

  • Redefined Professionalism: All staff take responsibility for the success of every student and hold themselves accountable to their colleagues.

  • Purposeful Design: The organization of time, space, and the allocation of resources ensures that all the design principles become common practice.

  • Leadership: Empower shared leadership in a culture of high expectations and collaboration to ensure the success of every student. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How will students be selected for Early College? 

  • Buncombe County Early College is a district high school exclusively for residents of all Buncombe County school districts; we do not accept applicants from any other school systems. 

  • Each February, Early College staff will meet with 8th graders at each Buncombe County middle school to share information about our program. 

  • Interested students are invited to a mandatory parent/student informational meeting at their district middle school, or they may choose any parent night in any district. (Private school, home school and charter school students are also able to attend any of our district middle school parent/student meetings.) 

  • An open house is held at the Early College (2nd floor Birch, A-B Technical Community College) so that interested students and their families can come visit us on-site and meet our teachers. 

  • After these information sessions, all interested students will complete a basic written application. 

  • A rubric is used to create a comprehensive overview of each applicant.

  • All eligible applicants will be entered into a school lottery. The lottery results will determine the 60 students offered a slot for the upcoming school year and the ordered waiting list for all other applicants.

What other schooling options are available to me as a Buncombe County student?

  • Each district has a comprehensive high school which offers an array of academic and social programs and activities. These schools offer the greatest variety of academic options for students.

  • Nesbitt Discovery Academy is a small, innovative high school with an academic program geared toward students with a keen interest in math, science and technology.

  • Community High School is Buncombe County's alternative high school of approximately 140-200 students who are committed to developing their academic knowledge base, learning new work/life skills, and graduating from high school. Smaller classroom size and a supportive learning environment allows students who have grown disillusioned with school to effectively reengage in the educational process. CHS works diligently to remove student barriers and to help students recognize areas of success, despite life’s amazing challenges.

  • For students entering the 11th or 12th grade, Buncombe County Middle College is a high school designed with small class sizes and a focus on personalization. Students who qualify are able to take A-B Tech college courses as electives.

All rising 9th graders must work with their 8th grade counselor to register for classes at the district high school, regardless of whether or not they plan to apply to Early College.


Can students not accepted as 9th-graders enroll later? 

We expect there might be openings as students move or transfer out of Early College. If openings occur in our rising 10th grade class, all applicants on the waiting list for that cohort will be contacted at the end of their 9th grade year with the opportunity to apply for a 10th grade slot. At that time, we no longer use our waiting list order but re-evaluate all applicants on a competitive basis. We do not enroll students after the start of their 10th grade year.

What will the Early College curriculum be like? 

The Buncombe County Early College requirements for high school graduation are the same as those for any other student in public schools in North Carolina. However, the design of our five-year plan is unique. Our plan allows for students to potentially complete both a high school diploma and two years of college credit - typically a six-year process - in five years. Some classes will be year-long rather than semester, allowing students to take a college course and/or a college support class.  In addition to high school and college classes, students will have community service learning opportunities and regular advisor-advisee sessions that focus on each student's individual academic and social needs.


Will my transcript be accepted at colleges?

Our students take the courses and assessments they need to graduate from high school and go on to college. The Early College transcript will look just like any other high school transcript. Early colleges have been in existence in North Carolina for over a decade, and colleges understand our programs and support our students.

Why are students required to participate in service learning? 

Our school strives to provide service learning opportunities that are positive, meaningful and real to our students. Service learning involves cooperative rather than competitive experiences and thus promote skills associated with teamwork and community involvement and citizenship. Our hope is that service learning will be personally meaningful to participants and will generate emotional consequences, challenge values as well as ideas, and serve to support social, emotional and cognitive learning and development. A limited number of service learning opportunities are provided through the school, but students are both encouraged and expected to do additional service learning on their own.

Will Early College students really get free college tuition?

Yes, the tuition is paid by the state of North Carolina through our state taxes. Junior and senior high school students in all North Carolina high schools have the opportunity to take community college classes for free if they meet specific academic criteria, but only Early College students have the opportunity to begin their college course work in 9th grade. 

Can students living outside Buncombe County attend this Early College?

No, we can only enroll students who are eligible to attend Buncombe County Schools through residency status.

How are young high school students kept safe on a college campus?

 A-B Tech is committed to the safety and security of all staff and students and has an excellent security staff. The Early College staff considers the safety of its students as its first priority. Our school is designed to have all first- and second-year classes housed in one building on the college campus, with all college courses in these two years populated with Early College students only. Our young students are with school staff when they move to other locations on the campus. The college campus environment is much less structured than a traditional school for our 3rd through 5th year students. With this in mind, students are expected to understand and follow through with individual responsibilities for student safety. 


Are you hiring? 
As with all Buncombe County Schools employment opportunities, Early College openings are listed online at the Buncombe County Schools website. Once an opening is listed, applicants should submit a letter of interest and resume to our principal. Please be advised that all applicants are best served by completing a Buncombe County Schools application in advance and doing all they can to make sure needed certifications and licenses are up-to-date. Good luck in your job search!