Taking College Courses in High School Part 2

Lower the Cost of Your College Education

And finally, having taken courses before starting college proper can mean anywhere between one semester and two years worth of college credits for students. A semester of credit earned while in high school is a semester of credit earned without having to pay college tuition. This can add up to tens of thousands of dollars saved for students and their families.[2] And when one takes into account that the time spent after graduating early can be spent in the workforce, taking college courses in high school seems like the financially savvy thing to do.

There are many options for high schoolers who wish to earn college credits before starting college, many of which don’t even require the student to go too far out of his or her way to pursue.

Advanced Placement Exams

One of the most popular is Advanced Placement exams, college level tests given by the College Board in a variety of subjects and graded out of 5. Over 28% of American high school students in the class of 2010 took at least one AP course.[3] Many colleges will give exemptions for grades of 3 and above, and most will give exemptions for 4 and above, with some even giving credit for 4’s. Most high schools in America offer at least a few AP courses, but students are allowed to take the AP exam even if they have not taken an AP course. Furthermore, many AP courses are now offered online, so even if a student is unable to take an AP course in their high school due to lack of availability, space or GPA, they can still take the AP course online and then take the AP test.

Because of the prevalence of AP courses in high schools, many elite colleges require prospective students to have taken two or more AP’s.[4] Students who have taken AP exams and scored high enough can skip many of the introductory college courses they’ll be required to take as part of their core curriculum, and if they have scored high enough on the AP to get credit, students can graduate from college as many as two years early.[5] And in terms of savings, the costs of AP tests are minimal compared to the cost of that same course on campus.

Dual Enrollment at Community College

Another popular route is for high school students to register for courses at a community college, a process known as “dual enrollment.” Community college tuition is cheap compared to the tuition at a liberal arts university or research university[6], and the quality of the introductory courses taught is often just as good as it would be at a 4-year institution. A student willing to put in the time can take two or three courses a semester, and then transfer the credits upon registering for college. This requires a bit more individual effort than the AP exams, because the courses have to be taken at a different location from the high school and in addition to high school courses, but a community college course must merely be passed for a student to earn credit, while credit for an AP is usually only given to those who score 4 or higher, and at some universities, only to those who get 5’s.


[2] Matus, Ron. "AP Classes save Families Money, but for Taxpayers the Jury Is out - St. Petersburg Times." Tampa, Florida Newspapers: The Times & Tbt* | Powering Tampabay.com. 31 Oct. 2010. Web. 18 July 2011.

[3] "Over Time, What Percent of Seniors Completed High School with at Least One Successful AP Experience? | AP Report to the Nation." Home | AP Report to the Nation. Web. 17 July 2011.

[4] "The Answer Sheet - AP Courses: How Many Do Colleges Want?" Blogs & Columns, Blog Directory - The Washington Post. 29 Jan. 2010. Web. 17 July 2011.

[5] Mathews, Jay. "Studies Find Benefits to Advanced Placement Courses." The Washington Post: National, World & D.C. Area News and Headlines - The Washington Post. 29 Jan. 2007. Web. 17 July 2011.

[6] "The Average Cost of a U.S. College Education - US News and World Report." US News & World Report | News & Rankings | Best Colleges, Best Hospitals, and More. 24 Aug. 2010. Web. 18 July 2011.