How To Earn Community College Credits in High School *Proven Steps*

by Chad Agrawal

The answer to this question, in a word, is yes. It is definitely possible to pick up some college level credits before you graduate from high school. However, it is not necessarily easy to do and in some cases there are complexities surrounding how such credit may be used. While many students are no doubt interested in the prospect of double dipping by using the classes they take in high school towards both their graduation and their college career, there's often more to it than simply showing up for your average Math or English class. The truth is that you will have to put in extra effort in one way or another, and there is always the chance that it might not pay off. Here are just a few of the things you'll need to consider before you choose to go this route.

If you're looking to get full-time credit from community college, read this post: Can a High School Student Take Community College Classes?

Community College Credits In High School

The first thing you need to know is that there are two basic ways to earn college level credits while you're still in high school. The route that most students choose is AP (or advanced placement) coursework. This option is available in many high schools for students that have excelled in their regular or even honors classes, and the learning material provided is considered to be equivalent to what is offered in college level courses. But simply taking and passing AP classes is not enough to qualify for college credit, as it turns out.

You also have to take AP testing to determine if you have learned enough to move on to more difficult classes once you enter the college arena. If you do not pass, you won't receive additional credit for your AP coursework (beyond it counting towards your high school graduation requirements). And even if you do pass the exams, the amount of credit you are granted could vary from one institution to the next (although you could qualify for as much as a year of college credit). In short, you can't necessarily count on this type of course to transfer as credit when you get to college.

Taking Part-Time Community College Courses

The other option is to actually enroll in classes at the community college level, and this is not going to be easy for most students. However, there are a couple of ways to go about it. Although community colleges generally require a high school diploma or equivalent (GED) for admission, you may be able to get around this requirement in a couple of instances. The first is if you have reached a point in your high school curriculum where further classes aren't offered.

Say, for example, you have fast-tracked your way through math by skipping grades and you find yourself facing a senior year in which there are no more math classes available. In such a scenario your high school may be able to make arrangement for you to take continuing education at the local community college, although you will have to do so on the community college campus, likely outside of your high school's hours of operation. Or if you complete requirements for high school graduation a semester early, you may be able to start attending community college full-time during what would have been your last semester of high school.

[Read Can a High School Student Take Community College Classes? to learn about being a full-time community college student while still being in high school]

The upside of either set of circumstances is that these classes will definitely qualify as college credit since they are, in fact, community college courses. So whether you're planning to spend the next two years attending community college (or less, depending on how many credits you complete in high school) or you're looking to move on to a 4-year business program and eventually, a masters in accounting, these options could help you to make the most of your time in high school by completing some of the credits needed for college graduation. You might not necessarily be able to double dip, earning both high school and college credit in one fell swoop, but at least you can get a head start on your college career.

This post was written by Chad Agrawal

Chad Agrawal is the founder of CCTS, helping students transfer from community college to Ivy League, tier 1 or anywhere else by following this community college guide.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Caroline October 18, 2012 at 12:47 pm

Wow! Thank you! I’ve been looking for a site like yours like crazy. It took my a while to find on google, but I’m glad I did!


Chad Agrawal October 18, 2012 at 9:41 pm

Hey Caroline, glad you found us too! You may want to check out our facebook page for more 🙂


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