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4 Ways High School Students Can Get College Credit

Updated on May 5, 2012

Planning can save money and time on college

There are many ways to earn college credit while still in high school.
There are many ways to earn college credit while still in high school.

Save money and time! Get college credit as a high school student.

Careful planning, no matter what you're attempting, almost always reduces costs and saves time. And when it comes to college preparation, careful planning while you are still a high school student can save you tons of money and tons of time. The basic idea is to get college credits before you even move into your freshman dormitory.

1. AP classes - cost: $87 per exam

If you are a good student then taking AP (Advanced Placement) classes in high school is a really good way to get college credits. AP classes exist for 34 different subjects so it is worth talking to your high school counselor to see which ones they offer. Your high school AP class prepares you for the AP exam administered nationwide in the spring. Your AP exam score (1-5) and the college you choose to attend will ultimately determine how many college credits you will get (usually 3-6 credit hours, which is the equivalent of 1-2 college classes). More than 90% of colleges in the U.S. give college credit for qualifying scores. Back in my day, 1983 to be exact, I got a 4 on the History AP exam and the university I went to awarded me 6-credit hours for U.S. History. Clearly, getting college credit by taking an AP class followed by the AP exam is a fraction of the cost of tuition at a four-year college.

2. Dual enrollment - cost: free to minimal

Did you know that your high school may offer classes that are considered dual-enrollment, meaning you are in enrolled in the class for high school as well as enrolled in it for your local college? My daughter will be a senior this year in high school and she has signed up for such a class, Advanced Geology. Not only will this dual enrollment course go towards meeting her high school requirements, but she will also get 4 credit-hours of college credit at the local community college. She can then transfer this college credit to a four-year university. As for myself again, I took a full year of Calculus in high school and earned 7 hours of college credit through the local state university, which I then transferred. And the cost, you ask ... absolutely FREE!

3. Take courses at community colleges - cost: see specific college for credit-hour rate

If you have a nearby community college it would be well worth your while to take a course or two there while still in high school. I would suggest you take a general introductory class that will transfer to the four-year college that you ultimately go to. For example, almost all universities require Fundamentals of Speech, Intro. to Music/Art, or Intro to Psychology, among many others. My daughter has done this and all it took was for her high school counselor to sign a form so that she would be allowed to take courses at the college as a high school student. She chose to take her classes online, which was a fairly simple process, and allowed her tons of flexibility in her schedule. Tuition at community colleges can be as low as 1/3 the cost of tuition at a state university, making it a great way to reduce the cost of college.

4. CLEP tests - cost: $77 per test

CLEP tests (College Level Examination Program) are offered in 33 subjects. The CLEP exams are administered at colleges and universities through their testing centers, just make sure it's an open testing center - meaning you don't have to be an enrolled student at the college that administers the test. Once you choose and register for a CLEP exam, you will need to start studying. You can get a college-level textbook on the chosen subject or go to your local bookstore and they sell all sorts of study materials for CLEP test preparation. Depending on your score, you can earn anywhere from 3-12 college credits, which for $77 and the time invested in studying, is obviously a huge savings on tuition.

Four ways high school students can earn college credit

AP Class/Exam
usually 3-6 credit-hours per subject
Dual Enrollment
minimal - Free
about 3-7 credit-hours depending on the course
Community College Course
varies by institution
depends on course taken
3-12 credit hours per subject
Plan ahead and you can reduce the cost of college and save valuable time by getting college credit as a high school student.

There are many ways to reduce the cost of getting a college degree

Saving money on textbooks, taking community college classes, and earning college credit by examination are just a few ways to save money on college.
Saving money on textbooks, taking community college classes, and earning college credit by examination are just a few ways to save money on college.

As you can see, with a little bit of planning ahead you can earn college credits while you are still in high school and greatly reduce your overall cost of going to college. If you have any questions or you've done this or know of other ways to do this, I would love for you to include a comment below.

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