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How to Earn Credits for College - While You're Still in High School

Feb 12, 2010 Jennifer Williamson, Distance Columnist | 0 Comments

There are some major benefits to earning some of your college credits while you’re still in high school. College tuition costs are ballooning—much faster than the rise of parents’ and students’ average pay—and earning credits in high school can give you a way to save money on college classes later. In many cases, the classes and programs that earn you college credits while in high school are paid for by the school district—and you can earn a surprising amount of credits this way.

Here are a few ways you can earn college credits while still in high school—and save a significant amount of money.

Take Advanced Placement tests

Advanced Placement tests are available in a wide variety of subjects, from Calculus to Studio Art—over 30 subjects in total. When you get a good score on the tests, participating colleges will give you college credit. The score you need and the amount of credit you get vary depending on the school, and not all colleges participate—but according to the College Board, over 90% of four-year colleges in the U.S. do. Many high schools offer AP classes that prepare students to take the tests.

high school student

If you’re concerned about paying for college or having a heavy debt load when you graduate, consider earning as many credits for college as
you can while you’re still in high school.




Ask your local college

Some local colleges—both community and private universities—offer classes specifically for high school students to take at night or during the summer. If you take community college classes over the summer, this could translate to significant savings at a more expensive private college later. Ask colleges in your area whether they provide these opportunities for high school students.

Look into dual enrollment

You may be able to enroll in college while you’re enrolled in high school. You can take classes at both schools for credit toward your high school degree and your college diploma. You may be able to earn enough credits this way to qualify for an Associate’s degree around the time you graduate from high school—which can significantly cut your time and money spent earning a Bachelor’s later. Dual enrollment programs take place in your high school—so you can take college classes in your school during the school day. The classes are paid for by the school district, so you can save some serious money on college tuition this way.

Enroll in middle college high school

Middle college high schools are designed to help underserved students in economically challenged school districts. They present these students with academically rigorous curriculums that earn them college credits in high school—so the students are better prepared for college. Most middle college high school programs are located in or near a participating college campus

Take International Baccalaureate classes

The International Baccalaureate curriculum is internationally recognized and delivered to 11th and 12th-grade students in over 800 public and private high schools and over 100 countries worldwide.  The classes are geared toward earning an International Baccalaureate diploma. To earn the diploma, students test in six subjects, write an extended essay based upon an international research project, and spend 150 hours in creative, action and service activities.

The program is designed for extremely motivated students interested in international careers and degree programs; it’s not designed specifically to earn college credit, as the AP program is, but many colleges do offer college credit for participation or successful testing.

Take Direct Credit classes

Direct credit classes are often competency-based classes geared toward specific vocational areas of study, such as accounting, criminal justice or construction technology. These classes are given at the high school level and are given transcripted college credit. 

College costs aren’t going down

If you’re concerned about paying for college or having a heavy debt load when you graduate, consider earning as many credits for college as you can while you’re still in high school. In many cases, these classes can be taken at your high school during the regular class day—so you don’t have to spend extra time in school on evenings and weekends. And because they’re administered through the school district, these classes are often free of charge to students and parents—a better deal than you’re likely to get through your college.


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