4 Ways to Earn College Credit in High School

There is a general consensus that college is expensive, right?

Thanks for the support, Leo

Thanks for the support, Leo

It really is no secret. Unfortunately, the ways to make it affordable can feel like a big secret. Especially when you find out about those ways after you missed the boat.

For example, there are several ways you can earn college credit while in high school. You may know some of these, but there were ways I wish I would have known more about when I was in high school. So let’s take a look!

AP Credit

Advanced Placement classes are designed to be college-level coursework for high school students. They are rigorous and really can prepare you for what colleges will expect of you. Students take the class at school and are given a difficult national exam on that subject. Each school varies on what AP classes they offer and each college varies on what scores they will accept for credit. They are pretty affordable tests when compared to the cost of college tuition. I loved my AP classes in high school, my teachers were knowledgeable and kept us to a high standard. Though I didn’t get great scores on all of the AP tests, I was very glad for the credits I was able to not have to pay for!


Dual Enrollment

There are a couple of ways to do this. At my high school, one of the teachers was certified to teach a college-level English class, It was English 101 being taught at the high school. Students had to pay the cost of the class (community college in-state tuition rate) and when the class was finished they had 3 English credits on their college transcript already. This is a great option as well, though a little more expensive than AP tests. At the time, I chose AP because my friends were all taking it and I didn’t have the money to pay for DE, but if I didn’t test well I probably would have chosen DE to not lose out on the credits.

The other way to do this is to leave part-way through the day to a college campus and take classes there. Many community colleges have partnerships with school districts so that a high school kid can potentially graduate high school with an Associate’s already under their belt! That is pretty sweet! The other amazing thing is that many high schools will help students and pay for a large part of this! This option isn’t for everyone. You need to be committed because these grades will stay on your transcript after high school. You’ll also need to be mature enough to handle being in classes with people a little older than you, in classes with discussions that could make you uncomfortable and challenge your ideas. They’re not bad, just a little more mature than you may be used to.


If you did a technical program while in high school, you may be able to transfer those credits into a college program. Some schools will let you take an earned certificate or diploma and use them towards electives. I knew a girl who went to cosmetology school in high school and then got a scholarship to a local university. She was able to have her high school help pay for a cosmetology program, use that license towards elective credits, and have a good job during her university studies. Pow!


The College-level Examination Program is a pretty cool way to earn credits. They are essentially comprehensive final exams that you can take and earn college credit with. Are you fluent in a second language? Have a parent who teaches history, so you know everything about European history? Did you took an AP test, but bombed the essay portion and a school wouldn’t take those credits even though you know the content? Maybe you read the encyclopedia as a kid? JK on that last one, nobody in high school today even knows what an encyclopedia is.

ted mosby

Sorry teenagers, you probably didn’t understand this joke

Whatever the reason, if you have a lot of subject knowledge and test-taking abilities, you can earn college credits without taking a class through CLEP. They are super affordable, too!


As usual, check with schools you plan on applying to before you spend money on some of these options. Then study hard and save some money!


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