5 ways to earn college credit before you finish high school

Happy high school student in classroom

Looking for ways to keep college costs down? Cutting the number of classes you take — or even the total years you attend college—is an excellent way to lower your overall tuition bill. Read on for five options to explore.

Dual Enrollment

Dual Enrollment means you enroll in college classes while you are still attending high school. You do all the work and testing of the college class, and you get both college credit and credit toward your high-school diploma. High schools set their own requirements—within the framework of national guidelines—so check with your high-school counselor to see what’s available at your school or in your district. Sometimes you have to have a certain high-school grade point average to qualify. Some schools also offer remote options if transportation or scheduling are barriers.

AP Classes

Many high schools offer Advance Placement (AP) classes in core subject areas like math, English, science, and history. The national AP program is run by the nonprofit CollegeBoard, and includes courses that prepare students to take a college-level exam in more than 30 subjects. IF you pass an AP exam with a certain score, most—but not all—U.S. colleges and universities will offer you college credits in that subject. There is a fee to take the exam, but financial aid is available for low-income families. Some colleges have limits on how many credits you can accumulate through AP exams, and some accept different score levels for credits, so check with colleges before you enroll. Some students find they can earn more than a year’s worth of college credits this way. Learn more about AP from CollegeBoard.

CLEP Exams

Like the AP program, the College Level Examination Program (CLEP) is also offered through CollegeBoard. It includes CLEP exams in many subjects, and high enough scores on these exams are also accepted for credit at many colleges. But unlike the AP program, CLEP does not include classes to help you prepare to take the exams. Instead, you prepare on your own and take the exam at an approved test center. There is a fee for the exam, but financial aid is available. Colleges and universities have different rules about what they will offer credit for, so check with your schools of interest for details. Learn more about CLEP exams form CollegeBoard.

The IB Diploma

Many colleges offer college credit for students who earn an International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma. High schools have to be approved to offer this program, and often one or more high schools in a district will offer it. The program runs for at least two years of high school, so this is something to look into in your first or second year of high school. Learn more about the IB Diploma Program.

College Summer Programs

Many colleges and universities across the country offer summer programs for credit for high-school students. There is a lot of variety in the types of programs. Some offer a full residential program of several courses, and some offer one course at a time for commuter or residential high-school students. Some have very high admission requirements, and others are open to a range of high-school students. Many are expensive, but many are also geared to—and offer financial assistance to—high-school students from low-income families. You can ask your high-school counselor for information about these types of programs, or you can look up individual colleges and universities you may be interested in. Search for colleges and universities at CareerOneStop’s Local Training Finder.

Want to learn more about paying for college? Visit Pay for School at GetMyFuture.org.

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