If you’re an academic achiever in high school and excited to start college, you can get a head start with an early introduction to college-level coursework. Earning some college credits in high school can help you impress college admissions departments, explore academic interests, and save some money on tuition.
Whether you have a college plan in mind or you’re just getting your feet wet with the college experience, there are many reasons to take college courses in high school. Find out more about your options and how to get started.
Can You Take College Classes in High School?
If you want a head start on your college credits while you’re still in high school, there are plenty of ways to do it.
One of the most common options is advanced placement (AP) courses. These courses are developed by CollegeBoard and available in over 30 subjects, so you may be able to knock out a college-level course and high school requirement at once. Once the course is complete, you will have to pass an AP test to receive college credits.
Unlike AP courses, which offer preparation to assist high school students with more rigorous coursework, dual enrollment allows students to enroll in full college classes while in high school. You can complete college-level assignments and receive credit that’s applied to your high school diploma and your college degree at once.
You can take college credits in high school by completing summer programs. This has a few benefits, including preparing you for the college experience, allowing you to explore academic interests at the college level, and focusing on a single course to ensure your grades don’t suffer.
Online courses have been growing in popularity, especially after the pandemic. Colleges, universities, and learning platforms like Sophia offer online courses that you can take in high school to earn college-level transfer credits, typically in gen ed classes. Some of these are self-paced, meaning you can complete the coursework on your own schedule to ensure that you don’t become overwhelmed with your academic schedule.
5 Reasons to Take College Courses in High School
Taking college courses in high school offers many benefits beyond getting a head start on a college degree – and saving some money in the process. Students can build valuable skills in high school that will serve them well in college, bolster their college applications with rigorous coursework, and gain confidence with more advanced concepts.
Some of the benefits of early college classes include:
1. Saving Money
One of the main reasons students take college courses in high school is to get some college credit under their belt to reduce their total tuition. Whether it’s AP, an online course, or class at a local community college, they’re typically much less expensive than tuition at a four-year college or university. Even a few credits before high school graduation can make a huge difference in the long run.
2. Shorter Track to Graduation
Typically, the courses taken in high school are in the general education or core subjects. These courses are required for every degree, no matter the subject area, so you don’t have to decide what your major will be to get them out of the way in high school. Taking some gen ed courses also takes care of some freshman and sophomore year requirements, so you could have a faster track to a degree
3. Exploring Academic Interests
Some students have a clear idea of their career path, but others may be choosing between multiple options. Some may have no idea at all. Wherever you are in the planning, taking college classes early gives you a chance to explore some different interests related to your major, giving you a solid idea of what you want to pursue when you enroll in college.
4. Time Management and Study Skills
College courses are more demanding than high school classes. Taking some of these courses in high school can develop your time management and study skills, which would improve your academic skills and help you explore your individual learning style. It also shows prospective schools that you’re prepared for college-level coursework.
5. Improved Class Rank
If you take honors or AP courses, some schools offer additional grade points for more challenging college-level courses. This can help your overall class rank and makes for an impressive college application. Keep in mind that not all schools handle these courses the same way, so speak to your guidance counselor to learn more about the grading and class ranking policies.
Should You Take College Courses in High School?
While there are many benefits to getting a jump on your college courses in high school, it’s not the right choice for every student. College courses are a stark contrast to high school courses, often including heavier workloads, a faster pace, and more abstract concepts.
Students have to have a lot of initiative and self-discipline to manage college courses in high school, especially if they’re taking them alongside a full high school schedule – including extracurriculars that are beneficial for college applications. If it’s too much to manage, summer college classes, either in person or online, may be the best choice to ensure that grades don’t suffer.
If you’re not sure if college courses are right for you, your high school guidance counselor can be an asset. Typically, students that are advised to take college-level courses in high school have already demonstrated proficiency in the subject area and their overall academic burden. Your counselor can help you determine if adding more courses will help or harm your GPA and applications.
- Here are some questions to ask your counselor:
- Can I take a college-level course as a replacement for a required high school course?
- Will my grades in college-level courses reflect on my transcript?
- Can I have flexibility in my schedule to attend college courses?
- Do I need to meet any requirements to take courses?
- Are there any restrictions on the courses I’m permitted to take?
- What are my options for college courses?
- How can I enroll in my selected courses?
You should also contact the registrar’s office at the college you want to attend and ask about courses that are open to high school students. Online courses are another option that gives you more flexibility in the classes you can take – and where you can take them.
Also, some colleges may not accept honors, AP, and college credit in the same subject, so be selective about which courses you take in high school.
When it comes time to apply, find out if your college credits will be on your high school record. If they won’t, request a transcript from the school where you took them and send it along with your college application.
Start a Free Trial at Sophia
If you’re interested in trying out college-level courses as a high school student, Sophia offers self-paced online gen ed courses for students of all ages. Earn your college-level transfer credit in your own time and get a valuable head start on the college experience. Explore our courses today!