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Getting College Credit – Before College

Some students come to college more prepared than others, thanks in part to college-level experiences that they were able to have as high school students. Thanks to those experiences, many high school students now arrive onto college campuses with not only more confidence that they can handle college coursework, but a number of college credits, as well. We look at some of the options you have to get some college credit before college begins below. Make sure you’re well-informed about the options your high school and intended college offer to high school students and college freshmen, as you could be eligible to pick up some college credit through dual enrollment programs, Advanced Placement programs, or proficiency exams.

College in High School

Most high schools now offer their students options like dual enrollment programs or Advanced Placement classes so that they’re able to get a few college credits under their belt before they even step foot on a college campus. Many of those classes will count toward those general education requirements you’ve probably heard quite a bit about. Some may even count toward introductory coursework in your intended field of study if you choose classes in high school wisely and already know what kind of career you’d like to pursue after your college graduation.

The advantages of picking up some college credits while in high school are numerous. You pick up time management skills and become more responsible with what you choose to do with your time when juggling your high school and college life. And, if you do well enough to receive those college credits, you’ll be saying you – and your parents – some money on your college education, since you won’t need to retake those courses come your first semester at an institution of higher education. Still, college in high school won’t be for everyone. Make sure you know the time and effort involved in enrolling in both a dual enrollment program with a local community college, or an Advanced Placement class at your high school. The last thing you want to do is have the grades in your high school courses suffer because you’re overwhelmed by college-level work. Yes, your grades and GPA through senior year are important!

Proficiency Exams

As part of their general education requirements, many colleges ask freshmen to enroll in a series of introductory courses that lay the groundwork for college courses to come. These classes may include coursework in a foreign language and basic rhetoric and math. In some cases you may be able to get out these intro courses if your high school transcripts report similar coursework that you’ve already completed. (Most high schools now require two to four years of a foreign language; many colleges will waive that foreign language requirement if you’ve taken four years in high school.) If your transcripts don’t make you eligible for any course waivers, though, you may still be able to get some credit for what you’ve picked up outside of the classroom.

Some schools allow proficiency or equivalency exams where students may “test out” of certain required courses, or to add credit hours to their college transcripts without taking any new courses. If you’re fluent in a language, for example, but did not learn that language as part of your high school curriculum, you may be able to take an exam that will reward you with some college credit. At the very least, such a test would determine the level at which you would start any college language classes if you were interested or required to take them. Proficiency exams for introductory English classes will typically ask the test-taker to write an essay on the spot given a topic provided that day, to determine where they are in their composition and comprehension skills. While proficiency exams aren’t easy, it’s always worth a try if you find yourself required to take classes you feel you already have some mastery in.

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