All articles

Can You Take College Classes in High School?

a teacher lectures to a high school classroom

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, more than half of all college students take at least six years to graduate from college. A four-year college degree is no longer the norm. Students are taking longer to graduate, which translates into higher costs and loss of income.

Students and their families are searching for ways to save money on college costs. Many have turned to scholarships as an option. Others look for ways to earn merit aid to offset the cost. Some choose to live at home while attending to save money on room and board.

But these measures don’t address the time it takes to earn a college degree. Taking college classes in high school could not only reduce the cost of the overall education, but it could also lessen the time it takes to earn your degree.

Earning College Credit in High School

Taking college classes during high school is certainly an option for motivated students. If you are a student who wants to enter college with some credit, there are several ways you can accomplish this. There are often minimal costs involved in choosing this option, but they offset the higher costs charged per credit hour by a four-year college or university.

How Do You Take College Classes in High School?

If you are interested in earning college credit in high school, successful completion of one or more of these options could earn you credit.

Advanced Placement

Most high school students are familiar with Advanced Placement courses. After taking these classes, students take a test that determines if they will receive college credit. Many students take these classes to demonstrate to a college their ability to master college-level classes but neglect to sit for the test for credit. Don’t make that mistake. If you take the AP class, take the test.

More than 3600 colleges and universities receive AP Exam scores. Over 90 percent of colleges in the U.S. provide credit for qualifying scores. You can check the College Board website to find guidelines for specific colleges.

If you are a homeschooled student or attend a school that doesn't offer AP, you can still participate. Each year hundreds of students participate through independent study. Some states even sponsor online AP courses.

Dual Enrollment

Dual enrollment programs allow high school students to take college courses and earn college credit while attending high school. The high school partners with an accredited college or university, allowing students to take college-level courses. Partnerships vary by high school. Some programs are taught at the high school with a teacher or adjunct professor providing instruction. Other programs send students to a local college campus.

High school students are usually selected for dual enrollment programs based on their academic qualifications. Eligibility requirements vary by state and even by district or high school. Some states have a set of guidelines students must complete to be eligible. Others require students to have completed a particular series of high school courses. Some require teacher recommendations.

Students can compare state eligibility requirements on the Education Commission of the States website.

College Level Examination Program Exams

The first two years of college are spent studying the basics. First and second-year students often review material they learned in high school. Nothing changes in U.S. History, English Composition, or Math. Why not take a test on this material and possibly get college credit before attending college?

There are CLEP tests for 33 subjects. Once a student passes a test, they are awarded college credit for that subject. Students can test out of 30-60 credit hours of the basics and enter college ready to study their major. Students can study for these tests over their summer breaks.

Click for a list of colleges that accept CLEP tests as college credit.

International Baccalaureate Diploma Program

The IB Program is available to high school students who complete an application and are accepted into the program. Programs vary per school and may include GPA requirements, teacher recommendation letters, transcripts, essays, writing samples or a personal statement, and a list of extracurricular activities. Students may also have to live within a certain distance from the school offering the IB program. Students who are interested should check with their high school counselor.

After completing the program, students take IB assessment tests which can lead to college credit with a passing score. Over 3,000 colleges and universities throughout the world accept IB diploma transcripts.

For more information about the IB program, visit the International Baccalaureate website.

Cambridge AICE Program

The Cambridge Program (AICE) covers over 50 subjects in four main groups: mathematics and science, languages, humanities and arts, and interdisciplinary subjects.

Universities worldwide recognize Cambridge AICE classes for their comprehensive rigor. Qualified students can sit for advanced (A) or advanced subsidiary (AS) exams each summer. Exam scores result in a certain number of credits based on the score and level of the course.

Summer College Programs

Summer college programs offer college credit courses for high school students. Students can get credit for participating in courses in the areas of computer science, medicine, video game design, the arts, and more.

Some programs require students to earn admission to the college to participate; others offer courses for interested students to sample college life before applying.

For a curated list of summer college programs, visit

Is Taking College Classes in High School Worth It?

Yes! There are three benefits to taking college classes in high school:

  1. You will experience the academic rigors of a college curriculum, thus preparing you for college.
  2. Earning college credit in high school will help you graduate in four years or less. With these college credits, you could enter college as a sophomore and begin studying subjects related to your major.
  3. You will save money on the cost of a college education. Based on published tuition and fees, the average cost of a college credit hour at a 4-year college is $456. These costs do not include room, board, and books. Compare that cost to $97 for an AP test, $90 for a CLEP test, and similar costs for other credit options.

If you are motivated to save time and money on college, it makes sense to take advantage of these opportunities. The cost and time savings alone justify taking college classes in high school.

Prepare for College with Appily

As you begin to think about options for college, it's helpful to know where you stand and how competitive you'll be when you start to submit applications.

With Appily, you can find out this before applying to any college. Simply create a free account, and you can use your academic information — GPA and test scores — to get an estimate of how likely you are to be admitted to the schools on your list. It's free and easy. Just click the button below to get started. 

Create a free Appily account to find, finance, and attend the college that's right for you Get Started Now