How to Get a Head Start on College (While Still in High School)

Did you know you can get college credits before you even graduate high school? Consider one or more of the options below to get ahead of the college game and save money on tuition. 

Before you dive in, remember to keep your schedule balanced so you can enjoy being a high school student. As you think about reaching your full academic potential, don’t forget to make time for self-care and activities that bring you joy!

Advanced Placement (AP)

AP classes cover a wide range of subjects like English, science, math, history, world languages, and the arts. Once you finish the class, you can take the optional AP exam. Final scores range from 1 to 5, with 3 being a passing score.

Passing an AP exam not only counts for college credits, it often unlocks prerequisites for advanced college classes. But here’s the deal – AP courses and tests are no walk in the park. Make sure you’re up for the challenge! Choose subjects you’re good at or excited to study.

Dual Enrollment/Concurrent Enrollment

Dual enrollment is the ultimate combo deal for high school students. You can take introductory college courses that count toward your high school graduation and college journey. These courses are usually taught by college-approved high school teachers. The best part? You’ll save a ton on tuition fees! 

Unlike other programs, dual enrollment doesn’t rely on a single exam. You’ll earn credit based on completing and earning a passing grade in the course. Some schools even offer classes on the college campus, giving you a taste of the college environment. Dual enrollment options and offerings are often regulated by each state. If you’re curious about what your state offers, NACEP is a national organization that follows dual enrollment opportunities and policies. 

Summer College Programs

Who said summer has to be all about chilling? Many colleges offer summer programs for high school students. Check out subject-specific programs at nearby universities. Not only will you earn college credit in high school, but you’ll get a taste of college life. Summer programs also give your resume and college applications an added edge over the competition.

International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma 

The IB Diploma Program is a two-year educational adventure for 16 to 18-year-old students. Some high schools offer the IB curriculum, making them IB schools. Many colleges will translate your IB classes into college credits based on your final test scores. This program covers six subject groups and includes a 4,000-word research paper and a service project related to creativity.

College Level Examination Program (CLEP)

If you want to skip a course and just take the test, the CLEP program might be for you. Exams are costly, but passing the CLEP exam can earn you three college credits for each subject. Make sure your dream school accepts CLEP scores. Check out their transfer policies and if they accept credits from different programs.

Community College

Consider knocking out some general education courses at your local community college. It’s cheaper than your typical four-year university! If you can handle the extra workload, signing up for online classes can be a win-win.

Career Technical Education (CTE)

CTE gives you the academic and technical skills you need for a variety of careers. It includes 15 industry sectors, covering 58 career pathways. In this program, high schools, businesses, and colleges partner to provide you various paths to employment and college degrees. If you’re looking for a way to accelerate your path to a career and gain real-world experience, check out this program!