5 Ways to Earn College Credit Before Stepping Foot on Campus

Useful tips for getting a head start on college and saving money on tuition.

In May, a new report announced that the class of 2015 was the most indebted in U.S. history, with graduates leaving school with an average of $35,051 in debt. On a ten-year repayment plan, that amounts to a payment of $400 a month – one reason why many have started referring to student debt as a bona fide “crisis.”

While some students have responded to higher tuition costs by deciding to go to more affordable colleges or applying for more scholarships, one option is simply to spend less time in college. That means earning college credits while in high school or college, then transferring those credits to a traditional four-year college or institution in order to bypass general education or major requirements.

Below, check out five ways to get started on college before arriving on campus, which can potentially majorly cut down your tuition bill along the way:

    1) Advanced Placement (AP) courses and exams are the most popular option. The College Board now offers 37 exams that can be taken for college credits, ranging from basics like AP Calculus to more specialized offerings like AP Studio Art: 3-D Design. Students can learn the subject matter in class or via self-study, then take the $91 exam at the end of the year. Often, college credit is earned when you score at least 3 (out of 5) on the exam.
    2) International Baccalaureate (IB) courses and exams are a more international, usually more rigorous version of the AP system. The curriculum is mandated by the IB Organization based in Cardiff, Wales, and is intended to be challenging enough to answer any nation’s standards. Students can enroll in individual IB classes or opt for the IB diploma, which is a two-year program for high school juniors and seniors. IB classes involve written papers, oral presentations, multiple exams throughout the year, as well as one final exam. For credit, colleges tend to recognize IB scores of 5 or higher (out of 7).
    3) College-Level Examination Program (CLEP) exams are a somewhat lesser-known path to college credit, but the program offers 33 exams in five subject areas. Exams cost $80 and can be worth anywhere from 3 to 12 college credits. Most CLEP exams are 90 minutes long – shorter than the average AP test – and you can see your score immediately after finishing.
    4) Dual enrollment / middle college is another option for students in participating high schools. Dual enrollment brings college classes to high school campuses, which means that students effectively receive credit for a dual enrollment class twice – once on their high school transcript and once with the participating college. Middle college often takes students off-campus entirely, allowing juniors or seniors to take their entire class load at a participating college.
    5) Online platforms and MOOCs have the added benefit of allowing students to earn college credit from the comfort of their own homes, while studying at their own pace. The online education website Study.com, for example, offers 19 online courses consisting of short (generally 10 minutes or less) video lessons and quizzes. Once a course has been completed, a student can sign up for a final exam proctored by webcam. If the student passes the exam, credit is granted via the American Council on Education, and can be transferred to one of thousands of traditional colleges and universities.


Author Bio: Study.com is the largest, most extensive online learning site. We are on a mission to make education accessible to everyone. As a top resource for over 15 million students a month, we offer a place where students can study any subject, prepare for any exam, and earn college credit transferrable to over 2,000 institutions. We have a massive video library of over 10,000 short, fun, and engaging lessons perfect for any audience at any grade level. Additionally, Study.com offers guidance counseling in order to help students save money and make informed decisions about their education and careers.


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