Did you know your kids can take college courses in high school?

Earning college credit in high school can definitely be appealing especially with the how much college costs per credit.  There are a few options when it comes to earning college credit in high school as well as taking more college-like courses.  The first option is called an Advanced Placement (AP) course.  Roughly 60% of high schools in the United States offer Advanced Placement Courses.  The second option is to take college courses at a Community College over the summer.  These are two very different options with different requirements to earn credit.  Things to consider are: what it takes for each program to earn credit, how each option differs in experience and the positives and negatives of college courses in high school.

Credit Requirements

Let’s start with the obvious: taking college courses at a Community College.  To gain college credit by taking courses at a community college, students must pass the course and it must be at an accredited school to transfer over.  Something not so obvious is that not all colleges accept every credit earned at a community college. When evaluating different college courses offered at community colleges, keep in mind what schools your child is interested in and what credits they will accept from the community colleges in your area.

Advanced Placement classes are very different in terms of getting credit.  The classes are designed to emulate college courses in terms of difficulty and course work.  A big piece to keep in mind is that simply completing the course does NOT earn college credit.  The Advanced Placement course prepares your child for the Advanced Placement exam that is given in every AP course in May.  Simply passing the test also does not automatically earn your child college credit.  The test is scored on a scale of one to five with five representing an A- for most colleges.  The minimum score is a three to get college credits but this depends on what schools your child is interested in.  More competitive schools require a score of four or better.

The Experience

The nice thing about AP courses is that they cover a broad area.  There are 35 AP courses offered in the United States in 22 subject areas. With that said, the experience of an AP course is very different than taking a college course.  Though Advanced Placement courses are designed to emulate college courses, they are still taught in high schools by high school teachers.  The AP courses are geared more for getting your child college credit while keeping them in the high school environment. 

The great thing about taking a college course at a community college is that it gets your student experience in the rigors of a college environment.  When your child succeeds, it can be a huge confidence boost going into college as well as giving your child college credit and a taste of what the expectations and coursework will be like.

Pros and Cons

Whether it is an AP course or a College course, the demands will be great on your child.  Though it does look good on a college application to have a college or AP course, they take a lot of time and will require a great deal of effort.  Make sure your child knows what he or she is getting into before signing up for the courses.  The other frustration is that not all colleges view the two options in the same way.  Some have stricter guidelines than others so be aware of that to insure that the credits are accepted by the school of choice. Taking these courses may also take away from the time your child has for other extracurricular activities which colleges are also very concerned with during the application process.

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