Earning college credit in high school
There are many ways that high school students can prepare for college-level work and even earn college credit while in high school. While it is always up to individual institutions to determine which opportunities qualify for credit when the student is accepted, many Minnesota private colleges recognize these programs and their exams as ways to earn credit and thus complete degrees faster. Involvement in any of the programs demonstrates to colleges and universities a student’s motivation and ability to think, reason and write at a high level — in other words, these programs can only help college-bound students.
Decoding the acronyms. . . and the programs
There are five main ways to earn college credit in high school, but not all of them may be offered in your area/district. Here are the basic definitions of each program:
Advanced Placement (AP), administered by the College Board, offers more than 30 college-level courses, in all subjects, to juniors and seniors at students’ high schools. Classes are taught by regular high school teachers. High schools may have specific academic requirements to participate.
How is AP college credit earned?
Students must take fee-based exams, graded on a five-point scale. Colleges determine which scores earn credit, but three is generally the lowest qualifying score. You may also take AP exams to earn credit even if you haven’t taken AP coursework. Exams fees vary, but students who demonstrate financial need may test for free.
Concurrent enrollment (sometimes referred to as “College in the Schools” or "CIS") is a free program for high school juniors and seniors to take free, college-level classes at their high schools, earning both high school and college credit. As a collaboration between high schools and local colleges, classes are taught by trained high school teachers and classes are held at students’ high schools. High schools and the partnering college agree on the criteria for participation.
How is concurrent enrollment college credit earned?
Students earn both high school and college credit by passing the class. A student’s future postsecondary institution will determine which credits/classes transfer and their equivalency.
The College-Level Examination Program (CLEP) allows high school students to earn college credit by taking computer-based knowledge tests of a subject. It is a way to demonstrate knowledge of a subject (and thereby skip those introductory college courses) in any of 34 subjects. Subject matter knowledge may be acquired through independent study, volunteerism or school coursework.
How is CLEP college credit earned?
Through a computer-based test, students are able to “test out” of introductory-level college classes by showing that they know the required material.
International Baccalaureate (IB) is a two-year degree program for high school juniors and seniors with an international focus; credits are also transferrable internationally. Students select subjects from six subject groups: their primary language, a second language, math, science, the arts and humanities. Both high school and college credit can be earned, and the coursework is college-level, though students can choose between standard and advanced-level courses. Classes are taught by regular high school teachers, it is free and held at your high school. Individual schools may have requirements for participation in IB.
How is IB college credit earned?
Exams are given at the end of courses and are graded on a seven point scale. Four is generally the lowest passing grade. In order to receive the pre-college diploma, you must take tests in six subject areas and earn a combined total of 24 points, along with community service and an essay requirement. Funding is available for exam fees to students in need. If you are not on the diploma track (which is optional) you can still earn certificates.
Post-Secondary Enrollment Options (PSEO) is a program that allows high school juniors and seniors to earn college credit while in high school, by attending free courses at a local university or community college. Individual colleges set their own admissions requirements for students to participate in this program. Students may attend full- or part-time; full-time students may choose to attend a college farther away from home and live there. (Please note that while all these courses and programs are free of charge to students, living on campus is not.)
In addition, there are two other ways students may participate in PSEO, even if they are not physically attending college classes. If they are available, they may attend college classes taught at their high school by a college professor or qualified high school instructor; they may also take classes online taught by a college instructor, if offered.
How is PSEO college credit earned?
Credits are awarded for courses completed/passed, just like they are for non-PSEO college students. The student's future postsecondary institution will determine which credits/classes transfer, and their equivalency.
You may want to contact an institution directly for more information about their pre-college credit and equivalency program policies. College applications also ask applicants to include information on college credits they have taken, so everyone is on the same page in terms of credits when a student is admitted.