How to Get College Credits While in High School: 5 Effective Methods to Earn Credit Early

Navigating the intricate maze of college credits can often feel overwhelming for high school students – it’s like trying to solve a complex puzzle with constantly changing pieces. Trust me, understanding that dual enrollment alone could save nearly $10.5K in university fees feels like finally grasping a topic in advanced calculus! This article serves as your friendly guide through various methods of earning college credit while still basking in the realm of high school, saving you not just heaps of time but a significant chunk of change, too.

Stick around – this enlightening info might unexpectedly end up reshaping your higher education plans for the better.

Key Takeaways

You can get points for college while in high school. These are called “college credits.”

There are many ways to earn these credits. Some of them include passing AP or IB exams and doing Dual Enrollment.

Each college has different rules about taking high school credits.

Taking more classes in summer or winter can add extra college credits.

Understanding College Credits in High School

High Schooler Enrolls In University Class

Earning college credits in high school is a smart move. It’s like getting ahead in a race! You are still in high school, but you earn points for college. These points are what we call ‘college credits.’ Schools give these credits when you pass certain tests or classes.

What do these college credits mean? They count as part of your college work. Say, if you earn three college credits from passing an AP test, that can save between $3,600-$10,000 in tuition at some colleges.

This means less time and money spent on doing those courses in college later on!

Getting this head start helps more than just your wallet! When it’s time to apply to colleges, they will see the hard work you have done already and may want you enrolled with them even more! Plus, taking higher-level courses while still in high school is great practice for what lies ahead at university-level studies.

So not only does earning credit early help keep more money in your pocket down the line and make your application shine brighter – but it also serves as a neat preview into future learning beyond high school walls.

Strategies for Earning College Credits in High School

There are effective ways to start earning college credits while you’re still in high school. Taking Advanced Placement (AP) tests gives you the chance to gain college credits based on your exam score.

Similarly, through the International Baccalaureate (IB) program, you can take challenging courses and earn credit if accepted by prospective universities.

Another beneficial strategy is tackling College Level Examination Program (CLEP) exams, which offer a way to demonstrate mastery of introductory college-level material and receive credit.

Signing up for dual enrollment allows students to participate in postsecondary coursework during their high school years.

Opting for summer or winter study sessions can help accelerate your learning and give you an edge when applying for colleges. Lastly, consider Credit-by-examination options available at some schools where passing an examination may substitute for specific course requirements, further boosting your overall earned credits.

Advanced Placement (AP)

Taking Advanced Placement (AP) tests is one way you can earn college credits in high school. AP classes are tough, but they offer a big reward. If you pass the test at the end of class, you save money on your future college tuition.

One good score on an AP test can keep between $3,600 and $10,000 in your pocket! Not all colleges treat AP credits the same, though.

For example, Princeton University will take your foreign language, math, science, or economics AP credits. But Dartmouth College won’t accept any of them. Some schools like Boston University only want 4’s and 5’s scores from these tests to count for credit.

Others, like MIT, take some areas but not others.

International Baccalaureate (IB)

IB is a course that some high schools use. It is more common in other countries. IB draws from six study areas and lasts for two years. To pass, you must score at least four on the IB exams, which go up to 7.

Most U.S. colleges like this program and give credit for it. For instance, if you score a four on the University of Florida’s tests, they will offer three to four college credits! And if your scores are higher than five, you can earn up to eight credits!

College Level Examination Program (CLEP Exams)

College Freshman Gets Ahead With Credits Earned In High School

CLEP Exams let you earn college credits early. They test your knowledge in 34 areas, like math or history. Over 2,900 schools will take these for credit. The tests cost $89 each, and the study guides can help you get ready on your own time.

Schools may have different rules about which tests they will take, though. For example, Elon University only takes six of the exams for their undergraduate credit.

Dual Enrollment

Dual enrollment lets you earn college credit even before entering college. You can start with this while still in high school by taking part in special programs. Some schools work together with colleges to offer these classes.

If your school does not have such a program, online dual enrollment classes are there for you, too. These classes let you study and take exams like a real college student would do at the university level.

Passing these courses gives you both high school and college credits! It also helps save money because the costs are often lower than typical college tuition fees.

Summer/Winter Study

Summer or winter study is a smart way to earn college credits during high school. You can take courses when school is not in session. There are many schools that will let you add these credits toward your graduation.

These options show how it helps to plan break time wisely with summer or winter study sessions.

It could help finish college sooner!


Credit-by-examination is a trick you can use to earn college credits. You study on your own and then take an exam. If you pass, you get the credit just as if you took the class in college.

It’s great because it costs less than a normal class, so you save money! Plus, pushing through the material at your pace means more time for other things later. But be strong – these tests are not easy! Some colleges like Princeton give credits from exams in subjects like math and science, but remember this varies by school, so check before signing up.

Understanding General Education Requirements

High School Teacher Reviews Credits Needed To Graduate

General education requirements are classes you must take in college. They cover a wide range of topics. These are not linked to your major or minor study areas. These classes help you get a well-rounded education.

Examples are English, math, science, and history.

There can be some overlap between high school courses and General Education (Gen Ed) needs at colleges. You might be able to earn credit for these in high school itself! Knowing about the Gen Ed needs helps plan things better in high school itself.

This is especially true if you choose online dual enrollment programs or concurrent enrollment during your last years of high school. Find out the general education requirements at the university that tops your search list so that you do not waste time with junk credits! Also, keep checking changes, as state universities keep working on making general ed more flexible every year.

Being Strategic with Courses and Exams

Student Works Hard To Plan Future

To earn as many college credits in high school, you need a smart plan. This strategy includes picking the right courses and doing well on your exams. Here’s how you can do that:

  1. Choose Advanced Placement (AP) classes that match with your college major.
  2. Target an AP exam score of at least 4 to gain higher college credits.
  3. Consider finding out what your target university focuses on for granting credits.
  4. Take International Baccalaureate (IB) courses if your high school offers them.
  5. Aim for a score of five, six, or seven out of seven in IB exams to get more college credits.
  6. Be aware that not all colleges accept IB coursework, so look into this before applying.
  7. If possible, join the College Level Examination Program (CLEP). Most schools accept these tests for credit.
  8. Try to score at least 50 in a CLEP exam, as it could get you between three and six college credits.
  9. Check each school’s policies on accepting CLEP exams for credit, as these rules may differ.
  10. Use your summer or winter breaks to take extra courses if your chosen colleges will accept those credits, too!

Applying for Universities with Generous Transfer Credit Policies

Freshman Enters With Credits Earned In High School

There are some schools that accept more transfer credits than others. These include big names like Princeton and the University of Texas at Austin. If you’re smart, you will look for such places to study.

You may save a lot of money this way.

Let’s talk about Princeton for a bit. They say yes to AP credits in foreign language, math, science, and economics. The University of Texas at Austin also likes taking students who have earned college credit while still in high school.

On the other hand, some places like Dartmouth College don’t allow AP exams to count towards college credit. Schools wish to ensure students get all their lessons from them directly instead of elsewhere or before attending their institution.

Just know each university has different policies when it comes to accepting transfer credits from high school courses or tests such as AP and IB exams.

Exploring Dual Enrollment: Concurrent vs. Online Programs

In Person Classes Versus Online

Explore the world of dual enrollment and decipher the differences between concurrent and online programs. This insight can equip you to make solid decisions regarding your academic journey while in high school.

Are you ready to dive deep into understanding how these programs work and their benefits? Read on!

How Dual Enrollment Works

Let’s talk about how dual enrollment works. It is a program where you, a high school student, can enroll in college-level classes. You get to be a part of two schools at once – your high school and the college.

  1. First, you find a dual enrollment program near you. Ask your high school adviser for help.
  2. Depending on the state and program, you might work with community colleges or four-year universities.
  3. For example, in Arizona, dual enrollment programs pair up with community colleges.
  4. Concurrent enrollment lets you take classes at a 4-year university while still in high school.
  5. After that, you sign up for one or more courses you are interested in studying at the college level.
  6. These dual classes count toward both your high school graduation and future college degree.

Online Dual Enrollment Programs

I want to tell you about online dual enrollment programs. These special programs let high school students take college courses. They help you prepare for the hard work of college. Here are some facts to think about:

  1. Online dual enrollment is becoming very common.
  2. You can stay at home and still take college classes.
  3. You can learn at your own pace.
  4. Some schools may not accept the credits from these programs.
  5. Howard University has a great program for low-income students.

Real-life Examples of Earning College Credits in High School

High School Student Studies To Earn College Credits

In Texas, I know of a high school student who took part in Advanced Placement (AP) tests. These exams cost $96 each but saved him a lot of money later on. He passed three AP tests, earning college credits.

This meant he needed to take fewer classes at university, which saved him up to $10,000!

Another real-life example comes from Florida. A friend studied hard and earned International Baccalaureate (IB) grades during her last two years of high school. Princeton University accepted her IB credits! She was able to skip some basic courses and jump right into more advanced stuff in her field of interest – science!

Frequently Asked Questions About Earning College Credits In High School

What can I do to earn college credits in high school?

You can start taking college coursework as part of your high school courseload for early credit.

How will taking college classes while in high school help me with the college application process?

Applying to colleges like Rice University or Barnard College may be less stressful if you already have some college classes on your record, showing good readiness for a real-life college environment.

Can I still apply for financial aid if I’ve earned some credits before entering a degree program?

Yes! Even learners who took dual credit courses during high school are eligible for many forms of financial aid once they begin their Bachelor’s or Master’s degree programs at different colleges and universities.

What is ‘dual credit’?

‘Dual Credit’ usually means that the class you take counts both towards your high school diploma and gives early steps towards earning a degree with college credits!

Are online courses a good way to gain earlier access to those types of advanced learning opportunities?

Choosing an online education path by taking online associate, bachelor’s, or master’s degrees might not just make sense for adult learners but also could be equally beneficial for ambitious teens looking forward best colleges out there!

Is it possible to blend studying abroad with this type of dual-enrollment system by somehow coordinating between multiple schools?

Absolutely! You can coordinate such arrangements with anything from computer science departments to smaller public/private institutions; it all depends upon graduation requirements matched between both participating campuses.


Getting college credits in high school is a smart way to save money and time. It gives you a head start before setting foot on campus! Using the proper strategies, like AP Tests or Dual Enrollment, gets you there faster.

Dive into these methods today and step closer to your goals!




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I'm Crystal. I'm married to Dale, and mother to Johnny.Some might say that my life is perfect because I get to do all the cliché wife things like cooking, cleaning, and decorating - but there's more! I also have many hobbies including needlework (crochet), sewing, and reading. My son's education is important, so we homeschool him together.

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