The cost of college is rising, and many students spend their time looking for scholarships and grants to pay for their education. One way to save money is to start earning college credit as a high school student. Here are some affordable ways to earn college credit while still in high school:

AP (Advanced Placement) exams are rigorous tests representing one introductory undergraduate course. Students taking AP exams are typically enrolled in an AP course in high school, preparing them for the tests. The tests consist of multiple choice and free response components and are scored from 1 to 5. Typically, colleges give credit for a score of 3 or higher. There are 37 AP tests, and they cost 96 dollars to take. Low-income students can apply for a fee reduction and should talk to their counselors about this process. It’s important to keep in mind that students can take any AP test they want and do not need to be enrolled in an AP class to take the test. This means that homeschooled students or students who feel proficient in some subject (such as a foreign language) can choose to take the test.

CLEP (College Level Examination Program) tests are 90-minutes, multiple-choice tests covering 34 subjects. It has 120 questions divided into two listening sections and one reading section. The tests are usually taken on a computer and are scored immediately. Most of the tests award up to three college credits, and the Spanish, French, and German tests can award up to 12. Unlike AP tests, CLEP tests don’t have a corresponding high school class, and students should seek out CLEP study guides to be best prepared. Not every school grants credit for CLEP tests. Students can check on the College Board website to see if the schools they are interested in accept CLEP tests. A CLEP exam costs 89 dollars but is free for military personnel.

The IB (International Baccalaureate) Program is a curriculum used in over 100 countries worldwide. The IB program is more internationally focused than the AP curriculum, and students spend their junior and senior years taking Standard Level and Higher Level IB courses with tests at the end of the year. Unlike AP tests, students must be enrolled in the course to take the exam. Students taking IB exams will also submit an internal assessment from the course in a portfolio of papers or a recorded oral component. Colleges differ wildly on what sort of credit they award for IB tests, so students should be sure to research the schools’ policies they are interested in.



Many public high schools around the country offer students the opportunity to take college classes for both high school and college credit. Sometimes a college professor comes to the high school, and sometimes students go to an actual college campus. The school or district typically governs these arrangements, and policies regarding eligibility and cost vary between schools. Like Minnesota and Ohio, some states offer PSEO (Post-Secondary Enrollment Options). PSEO lets high school juniors and seniors take college classes without paying for tuition or books. Some students attend college full-time during their junior and senior years and graduate with a high school diploma and an associate’s degree. Interested students should contact their counselors and ask them about dual-enrollment or dual-credit opportunities.

Associate degrees usually take approximately two years when studying full time and are available at community colleges and technical schools around the world.

Summer Programs

Some colleges offer summer programming aimed at high school students. These programs can help give you a taste of college, and they sometimes provide college credits. One way to start searching for a program is to list colleges you’re interested in and see if they offer anything. Another way is to consider an interest you’d love to devote your summer to studying, such as writing, healthcare, math, or a sport, and start your search there. Every year there are online databases compiled of summer opportunities for teens. Your school’s guidance counselors probably receive information from different colleges about their summer programs; ask them if you can see any flyers or brochures they have.

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