When a high school student enrolls in a class that can be counted for high school credit and for college credit at the same time, we here at Regent call that enrollment "Early College." Some schools may use other terms including "Dual-Enrollment," or " Advanced Credit." The student in this type of enrollment has shown the ability to handle college level work by successfully completing high school classes with above average success. In an Early College or Dual-Enrollment situation, the student's parents or guidance counselor should be responsible for determining if the student is capable of being successful in a college-level class. The college may or may not have certain GPA requirements for students who wish to take these classes. Most colleges do stipulate how old the student must be and at what point in the high school career, he or she can enter the college classes. At Regent these students must be at least 16 and entering their junior year in high school or above.
Benefits of Early College
For homeschooled students, Early College classes can add weight to a high school transcript. Because a homeschooled student is studying independently of any other students, it may be difficult for a college admissions counselor to know how that student's academic accomplishments compare with the accomplishments of the applicant pool in general. By taking a college level class in high school, that student is now being compared with all other students at the college who are also taking that class or have taken it in the past. This information gives the admissions counselor a better overall understanding of how that student compares academically to the average student. Often homeschooled students do well in these types of classes because they have already learned how to study independently.
These classes can also benefit the student by easing the transition from home study to the classroom experience and by enabling the student to gain college credit early. There can be significant cost savings involved as well, since the student usually lives at home while taking these courses and will eventually require less time away from home to complete the degree.
Finally, these courses can expand the curriculum options for home-schooled students. It may be difficult for a homeschooled student to study theater or business or psychology or any number of other topics from home. The college will often allow students in these programs to enroll in any of the 100 or 200 level courses, opening up many options for expanded study.
One Possible Pitfall
Some colleges reserve scholarship money for entering "freshmen," and they define a student as a freshman by the number of college credits they have. For instance, a school may define a freshman student as one who currently has between zero and 30 college credits. So if a student has more than 30 college credits, he or she would not be considered a freshman at that school and would not be eligible for that scholarship money.
Many schools have changed their scholarship awarding policies to allow those scholarships to be awarded to "incoming students from high school," no matter how many college credits they bring in when they come. However, it is best to check with each college to determine what the criteria are for their scholarship awards. It may be necessary to limit the number of college credits a student takes while in high school to avoid being eliminated from certain scholarship competitions, especially if the student has a specific talent or athletic gift.
One Other Option
It is also possible for students to gain college credit by taking CLEP tests. These tests are provided by The College Board and are often accepted for college credit by many schools. See the Regent CLEP webpage for more information about this option.