Craig High school diploma, followed by a college degree; first one and then the other.
As Jessica Knez found out, that order isn't set in stone.
Knez graduated from Moffat County High School on May 24 with more than 150 other high school seniors.
But, unlike most of her peers, Knez had something they didn't: an associates degree in general science awarded to her by Colorado Northwestern Community College two weeks earlier.
She and two other 2008 MCHS graduates - Desirae Pearcey and Clarissa Dilldine - also earned their associates degrees this spring.
In high school, Knez took dual credit courses, which allow students to take classes that give them college and high school credit simultaneously.
The three high school students weren't the only students who took advantage of dual credit enrollment this year.
Nearly 300 high school students were dually enrolled in CNCC during the fall 2007 semester, according to the Colorado Community College System.
That adds up to 20 percent of the college's entire enrollment of 1,430 students.
Of the 14 colleges in the College System, CNCC's student body had the third-highest percentage of dually enrolled high school students in fall 2007.
Morgan Community College and Otero Junior College were first and second in the category, with 33 percent and 21 percent of its enrollment consisting of high school students.
National statistics show dual enrollment is more prevalent among two-year colleges than four-year institutions.
During the 2002-03 academic year, 57 percent of Title IV degree-granting colleges and universities had high school students earning college credits in their classes, either through or outside of dual enrollment programs, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
In contrast, 98 percent of public two-year colleges had high school students earning college credits that year.
In Knez's case, taking those classes will help her get one step ahead when she enrolls at a four-year university this fall.
"The reason why I did it was because it helped me out financially, so much," she said.
Numbers support her words.
Knez plans to attend the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley this fall, she said, adding that her college costs will add up to about $17,000 annually.
By those figures, she's saved about $34,000 by earning her associates degree and her high school diploma at the same time.
Taking college courses in high school also cut down on Knez's time in class.
"That's a lot of your freshman classes you don't have to take," she said.
Bridget Manley can be reached at 875-1795 or firstname.lastname@example.org