In a recent report by the U.S. Department of Education, it was discovered that most students who enroll in a four-year college do not finish after four years. In fact, the study found that only sixty percent of students enrolled in 2008 graduated by 2014. When it comes to financing a four-year education, average tuition at out-of-state universities has risen 165 percent. In contrast, tuition at in-state universities had increased the most, by 212 percent. With these figures in mind, getting college credit while still working on a high school diploma is a time-saver and a financially sound decision.
Factors to Consider on Earning College Credit
High school years can be overwhelming for students preparing to transition to a college environment. Most students are tackling testing, college applications, and narrowing down interests in a major. When considering earning college credits during high school, it’s good to keep several factors in mind. Parents and high schoolers should look at academic abilities, interests, and career goals. Your geographical location will depend on whether your student will be seeking college credit from an institution outside their high school. Most high school students begin their quest for college credits by looking into AP (Advanced Placement) courses.
Advanced Placement Program
The first place to investigate getting college credits in high school is the AP or Advanced Placement Program. AP classes are college-level courses in sixteen different subjects that prepare students for college-level work in their high school. These courses occur in a familiar environment but are more challenging than regular ones. They are not to be confused with honors classes. While honors classes are for higher-achieving students, and testing is involved, they do not earn college credits. AP classes culminate in national exams that lead to college credits. Contact your student’s guidance counselor to see which colleges look for AP courses and credit on transcripts.
AP courses tell admissions officers that your student is up to the academic standards needed to complete college-level courses. Your student will need to know what is expected of him or her in taking these classes. These courses are challenging and rigorous. Ideally, the interested student should take classes of future interest. A guidance counselor can help choose which AP classes to take.
College-Level Examination Program
The College-Level Examination Program or CLEP, like the AP program, is overseen by the College Board. Unlike the AP program, there is no program. The test is, in fact, the program. For students who have mastered a certain subject, the CLEP is a way to avoid taking subjects where they demonstrate proficiency. Taking the CLEP saves time and thousands of dollars on a subject the student has already learned.
The student shows up ready to take the CLEP test like an SAT exam. To date, there are thirty-three exams that cover five subject areas. Students may take one or more exams. And don’t worry about taking the exams! Recent studies found that more than half of students could handle the exam with their knowledge from high school classes.
The CLEP exam allows students to show their competency to skip certain requisite college courses. Knowing which colleges and universities acknowledge CLEP exams is important to obtain the three credits each passing exam earns. Almost 3,000 colleges accept the CLEP, so it’s an ideal opportunity to earn college credits while in high school.
While there are dozens of CLEP books available, there is also an abundance of material online for students to use. With a current price tag of $89, parents won’t find a cheaper way for their students to earn college credits. Even more priceless is that the College Board found that students who use the CLEP cut their time earning a bachelor’s degree from anywhere between three and ten months.
Dual enrollment offers high school students an opportunity to take introductory college-level courses alongside their high school classes. Most high schools partner with community colleges, state universities, and private universities to access college courses and subsequent credits. High schools usually offer two options for dual enrollment.
The most common model is where students attend college-level courses and earn credits within their high school, under a qualified high school teacher’s guidance. Taking dual enrollment courses helps students balance their high school work as they advance toward their college goals.
Another way to handle dual enrollment is when a high school student attends college courses on the college or university’s campus. If your student is interested in exploring this option, consult with your student’s guidance counselor to learn about their school’s partnering colleges. This option is generally available for juniors and seniors to experience taking classes in a college environment. While tuition-free, parents are responsible for any college fees and the cost of required textbooks. We all know college is expensive for many students. Dual enrollment is an inexpensive way to obtain college credits while in high school.
Dual enrollment provides the opportunity to earn college credits while in high school and, depending on your school, a chance for students to get a glimpse of college life.
While dual enrollment and AP classes are an excellent way for your student to earn college credits in high school, it can be overwhelming for some students. Being a full-time high school student and balancing college-level work demands isn’t always a fit for everyone! Some people may want to maintain a social life!
Additionally, if your high school student is also working an afterschool or weekend job, it might leave them feeling overloaded. Summer college is another alternative for a high school student to earn college credit in these cases.
Both private and public universities offer summer college. A high school junior or senior has a certain degree of access to the campus for a short time. Because the student is getting access to the full aspect of college life, this option is the most immersive and allows them to sample college life and education. While it is the most expensive option for parents, it would still likely be more costly to earn those credits at the actual college-level costs.
Since most summer college programs revolve around specific areas of interest, this is an excellent option for students who are confident about what they plan to focus on in their future college studies. Parents can start exploring this option with their students using Fastweb, a resource that offers a complete index of summer college programs specifically for high school students. Typically, summer college programs run between three and six weeks and can earn students between three and six transferable college credits.
Customize Your Plan
While your student may feel pressured to choose an option to get college credit in high school, there is no one right formula. As stated previously, consider all factors when working out what best suits your student. If your student feels strongly about one option, then get started. However, you can combine different options if that works best for your student. Your high schooler may want to take a few one-day CLEP exams while in a dual enrollment program. Your junior may take AP classes all year long and then take a four-week summer college program before heading back to high school for their senior year.
For the best results and experiences, do a little homework first. If your student has a wish list of colleges, investigate what classes will boost their chances of getting in. Find out which and how many credits are transferrable.
Doing a little legwork before your student begins working on getting college credits in high school will save time and money. More importantly, it will ensure your student has an experience that prepares them to begin their college days.