Homeschool Dual Enrollment
One of the many benefits of homeschooling high school is that your teen can earn college credit (homeschool dual enrollment) during high school! All of my teens so far have earned their associates degrees (60+ credits) before graduating our homeschool.
When I was in high school myself, more than twenty years ago, I remember loving the dual enrollment classes my high school offered. So when my oldest chose to keep homeschooling through high schools, one of my biggest concerns was that she would miss out on the opportunity to earn college credit.
We tried dual enrollment with our local high school, so she could participate in their concurrent enrollment classes, but the whole process was excruciating. High school administrators didn’t like her coming and going from campus at will. They claimed responsibility for her well-being.
They didn’t like her eschewing all of their requirements, either. They felt they had a responsibility to taxpayers and the state to graduate their attendees, which meant fulfilling the course requirements they specified. We really did not want to jump through all of those hoops just for the privilege of participating in their concurrent enrollment classes.
Another problem was keeping track of the schedule, since all of our high schools run on alternating A and B days. Throw in assemblies and school breaks and teacher education days and the fact that there are five weekdays so A and B days rotate weekly, and you’ve got a mess to keep track of.
The rest of our extracurricular commitments — orchestra, speech and debate, co-op classes, dance and musical theater — run on a normal weekly schedule. It was impossible to keep commitments from running into each other.
The biggest problem, though, was with the classes themselves. All of the high schools in our area have concurrent enrollment classes set up with projector and a huge screen at the front of the class. Each class is run by a proctor. The classes are broadcast live from a local university to all participating high schools.
Students and their parents are required to sign content waivers before participating in the classes. The waivers said something to the effect that college-level topics would be discussed. That worried me a teensy bit, but I didn’t know how to give my daughter this opportunity on my own, so I signed the waiver.
I wasn’t too surprised, but I was still plenty upset when, in a film and lit class, an excerpt from a very inappropriate movie was shown. In addition to sometimes inappropriate content, the majority of the classes were just dull and not worth the trouble. The format for delivery was also not very interactive, and the other students in the room were often disruptive and disrespectful.
It was miserable.
There had to be a better way!
I renewed my research.
My daughter had to finish out the semester, because all of these grades were going on her permanent college transcript. But she disliked the classes even more than I disliked them, and it was a hard semester.
Thank goodness it wasn’t a life sentence!
I actually learned about several excellent ways for homeschoolers to earn college credit during high school, and I thought I’d share them with you so you can use them in your own homeschool.
Before I tell you about the different ways to earn college credit in your homeschool, however, I want to be sure you know how important it is to have a strategy. Your teen can’t just take classes willy nilly and hope for the best, ha, ha!
Your teen needs to look up his top choice universities, see what they require by way of high school credits, see whether or not they will issue credit for the programs and tests below, and outline a strategy for your teens high school years. Then you’ll need to look into scholarships and see whether your top choice universities will consider you an incoming freshman or a transfer student, because scholarship requirements will be different for both of those.
It’s tempting to only think right now of all the money and time your teen will be saving by accomplishing two years of college during high school. But if those classes won’t count toward his desired major, or if he ends up with too many credits for his program, it can actually be a problem.
The university through which your homeschool teen enrolls in dual enrollment will assign him an academic adviser. I heartily recommend taking full advantage of that adviser, because he will know all the ins and outs of earning college credit during high school in your particular region.
Doing your due diligence upfront will save you huge headaches later on.
Earn College Credit While Homeschooling High School
1. Homeschool Dual Enrollment
What is homeschool dual enrollment?
All of the terms for dual enrollment can be confusing. Whether you call it concurrent enrollment, dual enrollment, or dual credit, it’s basically the same thing. These course allow students to earn the high school credit needed to graduate at the same time (concurrently) as they earn college credits.
For example, a concurrent enrollment writing class will be awarded one high school credit as well as 3 college credits.
I’ve seen some high schools differentiate between concurrent enrollment and dual enrollment like this: concurrent enrollment refers to a high school partnership with a university and dual enrollment refers to a high school partnership with a community college. Regardless, the credits awarded both end up on the students permanent college transcript.
But you’ll find that most people just use the terms interchangeably, without differentiating them like that. I’m guilty!
In addition to all of these terms used to describe basically the same thing you have almost limitless state-specific titles for these programs. You have “Step Up, Utah”, “Running Start”, “Early College Enrollment Program” (ECEP), “Fast Track to College” and so many more. Search for dual enrollment or concurrent enrollment opportunities in your own state to learn all the exact requirements for your homeschool.
Most states have passed legislation allowing high school students (including homeschoolers) to participate in dual enrollment for free or for very reduced rates. In my state, Utah, students pay $5 per credit. Students are required to maintain a minimum GPA (usually 3.0).
One drawback to concurrent enrollment classes is that only a few are offered at a time, and they are always 1st-year-level, general-ed-type classes. So if your teen is looking for something specific to round out his homeschool schedule, chances are slim that you’ll find it among dual enrollment course offerings.
Be sure that your top college choices will accept the dual enrollment credits. When my oldest was first navigating this process, we learned that the university she wanted to attend would accept very few of the concurrent enrollment credits she had earned.
However, they would accept a full associates degree straight across. So all she needed to do in order for all of her credits to transfer properly was to earn at least 60 credits and meet the requirements for an associates degree.
2. AP Exams
One of our favorite ways to earn college credit is through the Advanced Placement (AP) program. Over 90% of universities in the United States offer credits based on AP exam scores, and the College Board makes it pretty easy to self-study by posting sample syllabi for each course online.
Universities also typically offer more credit for AP Exams than for the equivalent classes. For example, my teens earn 8 credits on their university transcripts for a score of 4 or 5 on the AP Calculus AB Exam. The equivalent class taught through the university only earns 3 credits. Foreign language AP Exams award as many as 12 credits!
The AP program offers more than 30 AP courses in pretty much every subject you can imagine. AP Exams are very rigorous, for which reason they are highly regarded. Successful completion of AP exams will help you stand out from the crowd during the college admissions process by demonstrating that you are well-prepared for higher education.
Colleges and universities will only grant credits for AP scores submitted directly by the College Board. Your scores will be automatically sent to one university of your choice. But you can pay the College Board a fee of $15 after the fact for each additional college you’d like to include.
AP exams are usually administered through your local high school, for homeschoolers as well as public schoolers. Contact the high school guidance counselor by March 1st of the year your teen wants to take an AP Exam to get him registered and pay the $90 fee.
AP exams are administered across the country during the first half of May, and only once each year. Tests will be administered at the local high school where you registered for the test. A qualifying score for an AP Exam is typically a 4 or 5. Some schools will give credit for 3’s, too, but most require a 4 or 5.
As with every other method of earning college credit discussed here, be sure to check with your child’s colleges of choice as to their credit granting policies for AP exams. These exams look great on homeschool transcripts because they give college admissions personnel context for all of those A’s doled out by mom.
3. CLEP Exams
CLEP is an acronym for College-Level Examination Program. This program, like AP, is overseen by the College Board.
CLEP exams are available to all students who feel they possess a certain level of mastery over a subject and would like to test out of it. Students pay a fee when they register for the test. CLEP tests are administered year round and can be retaken after a specified period.
Test results are usually received the same day. Following the test, they are awarded credits based on the subject and how well the student performed on the test.
CLEP exams are significantly less rigorous than AP exams, but are also less highly regarded. And again, you’ll need to check which CLEP credits (if any) your top choice universities will accept. Prestigious universities often don’t accept CLEP tests for credit.
Pre-register and pay for the exam at the College Board site. Community college testing centers usually proctor the CLEP tests. They are a quick and easy way to get a jump start on your college credits, if you’re a decent test-taker.
4. Summer College Programs
One of the biggest obstacles to earning early college credits is fitting everything in. Summers are usually a little slower, so it’s a great time to fit in a summer college program program, plus it gives your teen a little taste of what college will be like.
Young adults will be able to experience life on a college campus, make new friends, receive critical support in navigating the application process, and explore future careers while earning college credit for the courses they take. Sessions will typically last for just a few weeks, although there are shorter and longer programs.
One drawback to summer college programs is that they are usually expensive. Some offer scholarships, both merit-based and need-based. Another drawback is that they typically offer few credits.
Fastweb has a great list of hundreds of summer college programs. They are offered each year at colleges all over the country. No matter where you live or what your interests are, chances are that there’s a program offered at a college near you.
5. Local, On-Campus College Classes
If you live near a community college or a university that will work with your homeschool, this can be a great way to earn college credit for courses not typically offered through dual enrollment.
Community colleges usually charge much lower tuition. So classes here will still cost more than concurrent enrollment classes, but they will still be less than the same class at a university.
It’s nice that most community colleges are open admissions and don’t require an SAT or ACT test. However, they do typically require entering students to complete a placement test in order to place students in the correct classes. The placement test is not a big deal and does not require preparation.
Community colleges usually have small class sizes and professors are less involved with research, allowing students greater access to teachers. Most of them also have articulation agreements with in state universities, clearly defining how credits will transfer. These things make student transitions quite a bit simpler.
We’ve never used the on-campus classes because I was concerned that my teens were still a little immature to be hanging out with the college crowd. But they are a great option, and I won’t hesitate to use them with a few of my teens when the time comes.
6. Online University Classes
The concurrent enrollment classes offered tend to be very basic, general, 1st-year-level college classes. So if your child needs something at a more advanced level, classes directly from a university are a good route to take. Universities frequently offer several online courses, in case you aren’t thrilled about your 13-year-old, sword-wielding, lego-building son spending a lot of time on a university campus.
My kids so far have completed calculus in 9th/10th grade. But concurrent enrollment offerings only continue up through about college algebra. So we use online, university-level courses to earn credit for Calc II, Calc III and beyond.
We used BYU Independent Study University Level courses. I wasn’t very pleased with their Calculus series, and I don’t recommend it, but their foreign language courses are great. I have someplace else in mind for my next daughter. It’s a good idea to check reviews for any class you want to take online, and also check ratemyprofessor.com for reviews of the teacher.
It can be hard to gauge the difficulty of online classes, and you need to remember that these classes are going on your permanent college transcript. Make sure you don’t end up in a section where the professor considers the course a weeder course and is out to destroy student GPA’s.
Unfortunately, the university will charge you the full, per-credit tuition rate for these classes, and that can add up quickly. So these courses are not as cost-effective as the others mentioned, but they do still fill a vital role.
Just like with AP test scores, these classes look great on homeschool transcripts because they give college admissions personnel context for all of those A’s doled out by mom.
7. The DANTES Subject Standardized Test (DSST)
This test which was originally developed for the military. But now it’s available to anyone. Just like with the CLEP test, your homeschooled teen can earn college credit by studying the courses and taking the test.
Instead of having to waste time and money in a class that your teen could practically teach, the DSST allows them to test out. These tests are very similar to CLEP tests, just overseen by a different entity. And students are only required to wait 30 days before retaking the DSST, as opposed to 3 months for the CLEP.
There are over 1,900 colleges and universities that accept DSST exam credit. But, these schools are only required to apply these as general education credits. This means that your credits may not count towards your course requirements. That goes for the CLEP, too.
8. Vocational Credits
At our local vocational school, students can begin earning an associate’s degree or 2-year certificate starting in 11th grade. Programs and courses include: cosmetology, healthcare, welding, small business training, culinary arts, computer systems, automotive, and multiple apprenticeship disciplines like carpentry and plumbing.
My third son earned a computer repair certificate and several coding certificates that will serve him well as he studies computer engineering at college. He completed his certificates during middle school, so we didn’t even think to try to have them counted toward college credit on his transcript.
A homeschooled friend in my son’s cohort earned a welding certificate during high school. As a high-school-aged student, her tuition was free (though she did pay fees) and she was also able to include her credits on her college transcript toward her associates degree, which she also earned during high school. Wasn’t that smart of her?
It may just be a Utah thing, but all vocational schools are free to high school seniors (and homeschoolers that age!) PLUS the credits go on your college transcript in case students want to continue with college after completing a vocational program.
I advise you to search for information specific to your state if this is a path that interests you.
9. Early Enrollment
If your teen is just sick and tired of homeschool high school altogether and wants to move on, this might be a viable option.
Early enrollment programs through public high schools are usually targeted to gifted students, and they usually offer their students a support network to help in dealing with the adjustment.
Students are allowed to forego their high school diploma completely and attend classes on a university campus, with academic counseling and a little oversight from the partnering high school. The student earns college credit exclusively, just as any other full-time college student.
These programs are designed for motivated students who have completed the highest level of coursework offered by the high school. But they can work great for homeschoolers, who often find themselves in a similar predicament.
Mix and match dual enrollment options in your homeschool strategy
Bear in mind that you are not limited to just one of the above options for earning college credit during high school. Here are several more ideas for early graduation and college. You can successfully combine any number of these useful tools in your strategy for accumulating early college credits.
Your teens top choice universities will be the determining factor in how many of each option will be permitted, and in what combination. For example, my oldest two children are studying at BYU, which does not accept any CLEP or vocational credit.
However, students can get around that by enrolling at a neighboring university for concurrent enrollment classes, completing at least 60 credits in the correct combination to earn an associates degree, and then transferring the entire associates degree to BYU. That way, all of the credits are accepted.
Another benefit of doing it that way was that my daughter earned a 3 on her AP Music Theory score, which would not have been acceptable for credit at BYU, but it was given credit at the other university, which then transferred to BYU just fine.
If you’re willing to think outside the box, you can almost always find a way around the limitations imposed by universities. After our terrible experience with the dual enrollment program at our local high school, a friend and I started a charter school for homeschoolers, specifically so we could create a concurrent enrollment program that met all of our needs.
It was a long process, so it never benefited my oldest, but it has worked wonders for my subsequent children. That’s what I mean by thinking outside the box.
If you have any tips for earning college credit while homeschooling, I’d love to hear about them in the comments below. Please share for the benefit of others who are considering homeschool dual enrollment or other early college options. Please feel free to ask your questions, too.