I’m sure you’ve heard stories about students whose credit didn’t transfer for some reason or another. We’re going to look at “some reason or another” in this post!
This post is for parents worried about earning college credit while their teen is in high school. If your teen is already out of high school and enrolled in college somewhere, planning transfer is easy: call your college advisor. They’ll tell you, and help you plan.
For high school parents, I know you want to ask “will it transfer?” The problem is that for high school planning that’s the wrong question. A high school student is years away from enrollment, thus it is impossible to “lock” your teen into a college policy in advance of them being a college student! In short, you can’t get any promises from a college until after your teen has enrolled at the college. Once they are enrolled, they’re “locked” into that college’s academic catalog, and you can make decisions within that catalog’s policies.
Homeschooled high school students are earning college credit 2, 3, 4, or more years before they need to use it! This means you have to know how to spot the issues that derail successful transfer and avoid them with your teen.
Planning for future college admissions isn’t as hard when you think like a college employee instead of thinking like a homeschool parent!
Colleges differ widely in their acceptance of credit, but they’re predictable and boring with how they disqualify credit from being transferred. The best question you must ask and the right approach to use as plan your teen’s homeschool for college credit journey is:
“Will this class be disqualified from transfer?”
By knowing and then avoiding classes that are commonly disqualified, you improve the likelihood of successful transfer a zillion-fold. (Maybe not a zillion-fold, but a lot!) I’m not going to tell you which courses are disqualifiable, I’m going to teach you how to assess this yourself and your family!
Use these 6 tests to see if the course is a good risk or a poor risk. If you can answer “yes” to each, you’re probably going to have a successful transfer. If you hit a “no” anywhere on this list…disqualification is likely.
1. Is the class offered through a university or college? If yes, proceed to #2.
WHY? Many businesses offer classes “for college credit,” through partnerships with specific colleges and the American Council of Education (ACE). Examples of these businesses include Straighterline, ALEKS, CollegePlus, Lumerit, Sophia, Coursera, Study.com, etc. If you’re not planning to attend a college on that business’ partnership list, stop now. These courses rarely, if ever, transfer elsewhere.
2. Is the university or college regionally accredited? If yes, proceed to #3.
WHY? Colleges that are NOT regionally accredited (RA) almost never transfer into colleges that ARE regionally accredited. Public community colleges and universities ARE always regionally accredited, so the likelihood that they’d accept an NON-RA credit in transfer is tiny. Non RA colleges can be legitimate schools with different accreditation, but strictly in the question of future transfer, only choose RA courses in high school. Check accreditation for any college here: U.S. Department of Accreditation Database If you find that the college is not regionally accredited, stop now.
3. Can regular college students pay for this course using federal financial aid? If yes, proceed to #4.
WHY? Though you won’t be using financial aid with your high school student, courses that don’t qualify for financial aid are probably either professional development, continuing education, or offered through a college within a university that may not transfer well (Extension schools sometimes fall into this category). Dig deeper – this could get muddy and complicated. If the course doesn’t qualify for financial aid, my advice is to stop now.
4. Locate the name of the department offering the course. Is this course part of a degree program that leads to an award with the letters AA, BA, AS, or BS? If yes, proceed to #5.
WHY? Those degrees/awards contain courses intended for transfer, specifically general education courses. If this course is not part of a degree program, or it is part of a credential with a different name like Certificate, Diploma, Associate of Applied Science, Associate Occupational Science, or any degree with the word “Technology” in the title, transfer is unlikely. The course you’re considering is possibly for career training, not college transfer.
Exception: If your teen’s ultimate goal is an Associate of Applied Science degree from the school you’re considering for dual enrollment, you’re not going to transfer the credit elsewhere, so you don’t need to worry about transfer credit. But, if a transfer is planned, into a different Associate of Applied Science degree program or a 4-year school, stop now.
5. Is the course’s alpha-numerical 100 or higher? For instance, the number in ENG101 is 101. ENG101 has an alpha-numeric higher than 100. If yes, proceed to #6.
WHY? The majority of colleges use 100-400 numbers to indicate level. Courses under 100 level (085, 060, etc.) are possibly “developmental” and not eligible for college credit. If the college uses this system, and the course is not at least 100 level, stop now. A handful of colleges have their own system that looks nothing like this one. If that’s the case, call and ask.
100 and 200 are freshman/sophomore lower level. 300 and 400 are junior / senior upper level. Community college courses generally have a good selection of remedial (under 100) courses but do not go higher than 200. Universities don’t always offer courses under 100-level, but can offer courses all the way through 600 (masters/doctorate).
6. Does this course appear in the college’s list of approved general education courses?
If yes, congratulations! You’re as close to a sure thing as you can get. You’ve passed my test of 6 key disqualifiers.
What now? Proceed! You’re as solid as you can be at this point. I do have one final warning to those of you with very young teens who are taking college courses very early. Occasionally, some colleges (NOT the majority) will put “expiration dates” on hard sciences (biology, chemistry, physics, etc.) and technology (computer science, etc.). It’s unlikely that you already have your teen’s target college selected at this point, so the best bet is to choose non-science and technology courses now (English, social science, humanities, math) and wait for the 11th grade to later before taking hard sciences or computer courses.