Three Ways to Earn College Credit in High School

By Huntington Learning Center

College is a big investment of both time and effort. Fortunately, hard-working students willing to put in the effort can actually get started on earning college credits during high school. Here are three pathways to do so:  

Advanced Placement – Chances are you’ve heard about Advanced Placement (better known as AP) classes. These are developed by the College Board and intended to prepare students for college-level exams. Most colleges grant credit, advanced placement, or both for qualifying AP exam scores. Your student must ensure their official score reports go directly to the college from the College Board for evaluation.  

What kind of credit will your student receive for their AP Exam scores of 3, 4 or 5 (out of 5)? It might be elective credit. It might be the lab portion of a science class, or a general education course credit. Colleges set their own policies on awarding such credit or placement, so your student will need to research on the College Board or individual college websites.  

Advanced placement is when a student’s score proves their knowledge in a subject to the college/university, thereby allowing them to skip the corresponding course. So, an example would be bypassing the prerequisite introductory course (enabling your student to take a core course in their major instead).  

Dual Enrollment – Dual enrollment courses are those that students take through their high schools that give them college credit at a local college or university, sometimes for a minimal fee. Classes are college level but typically taught by high school teachers. There are many benefits of dual enrollment classes. Your student can get a head start on earning college credits and also get a feel for what college-level academics are like. For many students, this can help with the transition from high school to college.  

College-Level Examination Program – Another College Board program, CLEP, offers 34 exams that cover introductory college course material. CLEP is similar to the AP exams in that way: it gives students the chance to master some college-level work. But the main difference is the preparation. There are no corresponding courses for CLEP exams as there are for AP exams. Your student can take CLEP exams at CLEP test centers around the country. To see if a particular college grants credit for CLEP exams, your student will need to search the college website or the College Board website for that institution’s policies.  

CLEP exams are a great option if your student’s school doesn’t have an AP course in a subject that your student excels in. Or perhaps there isn’t an AP exam for a subject that your student wants to take. They still might have an opportunity to earn college credit through CLEP.  

Many Benefits of AP, Dual Enrollment and CLEP 

Earning college credits in high school is an excellent way to:  

  • Challenge oneself and learn what college classes are like 
  • Save money on future tuition costs 
  • Build test-taking skills 
  • Prepare for advanced-level course work 
  • Strengthen the college application