Homeschooled kids often get a head start by earning college credits while still in high school. Since my oldest is 14 and very advanced in math I've spent several months researching this topic. Today many options are available for earning college credit thereby greatly reducing the cost of a college degree.
Here are three main ways to earn credit.
AP, CLEP and DSST are three different types of tests which can be taken and are accepted by universities. AP, or advanced placement exams are commonly offered by high schools which teach advanced classes such as calculus, English and history. CLEP exams cover many subjects typically taught during the first year of college such as American Literature, Foreign Language, Economics, Chemistry, Humanities, and Calculus. DSST exams tend to cover topics more typically gained through on the job experience such as business and computing.
Most undergraduate programs accept around one years worth of credits, or 32 credits total. They pick and choose which credits from exams they will accept. Sometimes they change their policies, and not all universities accept the same exams. That being said, passing a foreign language exam can earn potential undergraduates a whopping 12 credits. Passing most other exams result in 3 to 6 credits depending on the exam and score. Many universities like to limit the amount of credits accepted by testing to ensure students are capable of learning through more traditional classroom methods. So the bottom line is, testing can be an efficient way to skip ahead, but if the end university is known, it's best to double check with them in advance to see what credits they will accept.
2. Community College
Many undergraduate university programs will accept up to 64 transfer credits, or credits earned at another accredited institution. That means students could either take two years worth of classes at a community college, or one year of classes combined with 32 testing credits to begin an undergraduate program as a junior. Since community colleges tend to be cheaper than universities and testing cheaper than community college, this combination is an excellent way to save money on education.
Accreditation is key. There are many colleges offering classes, but not all are accredited. Again, if the university or final degree program is known, then it's best to check with that institution as to whether or not the credits earned at the community college will be accepted. If the final degree program is still being decided, checking the regional accreditation is a good idea. Here's a web link to help verify accreditation.
3. On-line College
Now that the internet has grown by leaps and bounds, many students are obtaining on-line degrees. Thomas Edison State College, Excelsior College and Charter Oaks State College are three big on-line degree institutions. What's really neat about several of the on-line programs is that students can earn a degree almost entirely through testing. They tend to accept most testing credits and even offer tests similar to course final exams which if passed, are another route for earning credit.
Students can learn at home, take AP, CLEP and DSST exams, then select an on-line school and degree program. From there, the students can study the material required by the degree program, enroll, take several tests and wind up with a degree, or enroll and take the courses on-line to complete the program.
Accredited degrees are normally accepted by universities. Therefore, if the student were to earn an on-line degree and then begin a second degree at a university, depending on the similarity of the degrees, as much as three years worth of classes could be eliminated.
Just like the numerous options for educating elementary, junior high and high school level children there are many options for college level as well. The ideal scenario would be to know the final destination university and degree program and then select a testing/community college/on-line option to feed into it. Without knowing the final goal, much progress can still be made. Just remember, each university sets its own rules. The important thing is to look for accreditation.
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