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This Fall begins dual enrollment college for my high school Junior. So in her honor, let’s look at the three ways we can homeschool for college credit in high school.
Homeschool Using College
Is dual enrollment an option? If so, your teen might be able to start at the local community college their Junior year or when they turn 16, depending on state law. Some states will allow high school freshmen to start at a community college for select classes if they pass a placement test.
Your teen can homeschool for college credit while fulfilling his or her high school requirements using dual enrollment. And because dual enrollment carries the same GPA weighting as Advanced Placement classes, it can be a huge help towards scholarships and merit-based assistance for a four-year degree.
You can graduate in the same month with a high school diploma and an Associates Degree in some states. Other states allow you to earn up to 30 credit hours before high school graduation. This effectively exempts you out of your first year of college.
Look at the requirements to start the Fall of (or the Summer before) their Junior year. For our community college, it requires a transcript completed through 10th grade, a minimum GPA and possibly a placement test.
This can work even if your teen pursues a technical skill and not college. Our local community college offers dual enrollment programs for twenty-five different pathways outside of the college-bound track. These include classes such as welding, machining, computer-aided design, hospitality management, allied health, accounting and more. And some of these programs are very competitive for admission.
How much does it cost? It depends on where you live. Some states, such as FL, make community college completely free for high schoolers to homeschool for college credit. They include tuition, supplies, books and fees. Others, like in NC, you get free tuition and fees but you have to pay for books and some supplies. Still other states give no free or discounted tuition but they will allow you to attend. It varies widely by state law.
Some private colleges and universities offer dual enrollment. Some offer reduced tuition to high schoolers. A local university offers dual enrollment to high schoolers for $25 tuition a class. That is 97% off their normal tuition. You still have to buy books and supplies and pay any fees.
This can also mean you might only need to spend 2 years to get a Bachelor’s Degree. That adds up to significant cost savings!
Personally, our state requires us to pay for books. We found that her first semester books were less than what we would have paid for homeschool curriculum for the year in those subjects. So at least this first semester is a win-win for us.
However, do be aware that certain courses can require $300 or more of books for a single course. Some require new books only be purchased in order to obtain access codes that are used for online coursework. Be sure to look into the cost of the books before picking classes.
But even if we purchase a $300 book for a 3-credit class, we’re still ahead. Compare that to the cost of tuition at the local state university for a required class where we’d still have to purchase books, anyway. That saves us about $1,000 per course if no scholarships are available.
The caveat is that you need to make sure your college credit will transfer to your teen’s intended college. Not every school will accept credit from a community college. And not every school will accept credit from every community college class (even if they accept credit from that college in general).
Look on their website for or ask their registrar for their articulation agreements to know that the dual enrollment classes are guaranteed to be accepted. This is a formal agreement between colleges as to which credits are guaranteed to transfer and how.
This is why we are leaning towards the NC Public University system for a Bachelor’s degree. Acceptance of transfer credit from an NC community college to the UNC system is guaranteed by state law.
Without an articulation agreement in place, you might not know how the credit will transfer, if at all. However, doing dual enrollment, even if it isn’t transferrable, can increase GPA. Dual credit weighting as a college class gives as much weight as an AP class. That shows that your child is capable of doing the work. And the weighted GPA can help with scholarships. So even if the class itself won’t transfer, a few classes can help with GPA weighting and scholarships.
CLEP is a way to homeschool for college credit in 33 different core classes without having to take specific courses. This gives as advantage over Advanced Placement classes.
With CLEP, you study for the exam. If you take the test and score high enough (usually 50% or above), many colleges will give you college credit for that particular course.
This can be a good strategy to help keep your GPA high if your teen tests well. If college they wish to go to offers scholarships for transfer students or first-year students coming in with some college credit, it’s a golden opportunity. Your teen can CLEP the subjects they struggle with and take the subjects they do well in to get an easier A.
This keeps the lower scores off of your transcript but still gives you credit for the classes. CLEP requires a 50% to pass the exam. It is the equivalent of passing a class with a ‘C’ but it doesn’t affect your GPA.
Your teen can take the CLEP multiple times if needed, until they pass. When you request a transcript of your CLEP exams be sent to a college, request that the ones you took and didn’t pass be left off of the report.
There are multiple CLEP prep courses. Dual Credit At Home offers you a 49-week study guide to using CLEP for high school and college credit for every CLEP exam. Her children begin using the program around 12 and use it to complete high school and their Bachelor’s Degrees by 18.
If you wish to do only certain CLEPs, Modern States offers the coursework for free. They will also give you a voucher for a free CLEP exam (you still have to pay the facility fee of $5-20).
We are using Modern States to prepare for the CLEP exam after taking the high school course through Acellus. We complete the high school year-long class in one semester then spend the second semester preparing for the CLEP exam.
Our plan with our children is to mix CLEP and Dual Enrollment courses to obtain an AA before transferring to a public NC university to continue for a Bachelor’s degree.
Our local community college and the public universities both take CLEP credit, so this is a good strategy for us to further reduce the course load for a Junior or Senior doing dual enrollment while fulfilling requirements.
However, it is important that you look into which CLEP exams are accepted by your child’s intended college or colleges. Contact the registrar of your intended colleges to find out.
We contacted the registrars of both the local community college and two public universities and they sent us a detailed list of which CLEP exams they accept and which of their courses it would substitute for. We found that, at least in dealing with public colleges and universities in NC, the process is very straight-forward.
However, for private colleges, it can be a different story. I have met homeschoolers who took CLEP exams, only to have them not be accepted at private universities to substitute for specific courses. Some provate colleges only award general credit for electives and not for specific course requirements for their diploma. The end result was that they had to take the classes again anyway.
One homeschooler passed 30 credit hours in CLEP exams, to have her private college only give her 3 credit hours in electives. So asking an admissions counselor if they accept CLEP credit is not enough. You need to ask specifically which courses towards a degree that they give you credit for. And you need to see the official list from the registrar to confirm it.
CLEP Doesn’t Transfer
Each university judges CLEP exam credits independently. They are not treated as transfer credit with a transcript when you move schools when you are combining CLEP and Dual Enrollment or going to a community college before university.
So it is important that you contact EACH university that you intend to attend and confirm that they will accept your CLEP exams as credit for specific courses so you do not have to repeat those courses. This is true even if you are going into a university with an AA intending to complete only your junior and senior years for a Bachelor’s degree.
Even if your community college accepts CLEP, you must also ensure that the university you are transferring into will accept it, too. Otherwise you might find yourself having to take those courses anyway to get a Bachelor’s Degree.
The CLEP exam is very popular because they’re available at many locations around the US at any time, by appointment. They are not like the ACT, SAT or the AP exams where you show up on a single day and time and everyone takes the exam together.
Instead, you look for a local testing site on their website and schedule a test when it works for you. The exams are 90-120 minutes long and are done on a computer.
You don’t have to study a pre-determined course in order to pass a CLEP as you do with AP. This is a huge help when you homeschool for college credit. You’re not locked in to only considering a few courses from which to choose to be able to sit for the exam.
CLEP was created to help individuals with prior knowledge in a college course subject earn their degree efficiently and inexpensively. That prior learning could have taken place through advanced high school courses, independent reading and study, online courseware or textbooks, noncredit courses, or on-the-job training.CLEP website
You can purchase a CLEP study guide from the College Board or another outlet and use it in conjunction with your homeschool course, or even outside of it. A motivated student can take multiple CLEP exams outside of the courses they take in high school via independent study through the Summer and off time during the year.
However, our preferred method is to take the course as a high school class, then to move to studying for the CLEP exam. While it does take more time and will require you to find or purchase curriculum, this seems to be the more thorough method of preparation. Our goal is not just college credit, but also retention of the information for use in adulthood instead of just studying to pass a test.
CLEP exams are $89 each (plus testing site fee of $5-20) and you can purchase study guides for them to help you prepare.
AP stands for Advanced Placement. It is a step above honors and is college-level work while still in high school. There are multiple AP courses available for you to use to homeschool for college credit. You take the year-long class then take an officially proctored exam at the end. Some colleges and universities accept a high enough score on the test as college credit.
The AP exam is scored from 1-5. Some colleges will accept a 3-5 to give you college credit. Other colleges require a 4 or 5, and some colleges will accept some AP exams
but not all. You must know your college’s policy before taking an AP exam to know what you will need to score to decide if it is worth your time.
I did AP when I was in high school. The college I went to only accepted scores of 5, which is very difficult to achieve. However, the weighted GPA from doing AP work helped me obtain a scholarship to that college that covered 75% of tuition. So it was not a total waste.
AP for Homeschoolers
You can teach AP classes to your homeschooler using a program with an AP offering such as Acellus Power School. But you must register with the College Board and have your syllabus approved before you do the course. That is very easy with a pre-made syllabus such as the ones Acellus provides. Or you can write your own syllabus.
You should only list AP on your transcript if you register as an AP teacher for home-taught courses. Or your child can attend an online or co-op class with an accredited teacher. If you are not going to register as a teacher and have your child take the exam, you should list that course on your transcript as an honors course.
AP exams are given on a single day across the country,. That is your only opportunity to take that exam that year.
You can take an AP course, list it on the transcript as honors, and use that to prepare for a CLEP exam. This allows for a more flexible testing schedule. This is our plan, as Acellus offers multiple AP courses.
What is your plan for helping your high schooler earn college credit before graduation?
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