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Degree Planning 101 (part 4)

PART 4 of 4

Degree planning, in contrast to high school planning, is when your teen’s courses are selected to meet the requirements for a college degree. Resourceful high school planning, something we’re especially focused on here, is considering those requirements while your teen is still in high school and thoughtfully injecting college credit into your homeschool program where it makes sense. Since planning a high school diploma is already a big job for most of us, degree planning can feel unachievable. In this 4-part series, I’d like to talk more with you about degree planning. 


Start at Part 1

Transfer Makes $ense

If you’ve learned one key point in this series, it’s that transfer credit makes college affordable. If a college you’re considering accepts transfer credit in any amount, you have an opportunity to save significantly over the rack rate tuition they’re advertising.

  • Most state colleges accept transfer credit or alternative credit for 50% of a degree. Examples of this are using your community college to complete the first two years of a degree and then the last two at a state college.
  • Colleges with a generous transfer policy will accept transfer credit or alternative credit for up to 75% of a degree.
  • There are three colleges with a VERY generous transfer policy, The Big 3, where the entire degree (except for a Cornerstone and/or Capstone) can be brought in as transfer or alternative credit.


The Same Thing Only Different

Occasionally, a college will “reverse” the way they state their policy, which can be confusing at first blush. For instance, a bachelor’s degree usually requires the completion of 120 credits. Their transfer policy may be written in several different ways, you might have to do a little math to help you understand what they mean.

Policy Example #1)  A student may transfer in up to 90 credits

Since a bachelor’s degree is 120 credits, we can calculate that 90 credits will represent 75% of the degree. (120 divided by 90 = 75%) In this policy, a student may transfer in 75% of the degree, or 90 of the 120 credits required.

Policy Example #2) A student may transfer in up to 75% of the degree

Since a bachelor’s degree is 120 credits, we can calculate that 75% of 120 is 90 credits. (120 x .75 = 90) In this policy, a student may transfer in 75% of the degree, or 90 of the 120 credits required.

Policy Example #3) A student must complete 25% of the degree at this college

Since a bachelor’s degree is 120 credits, we can calculate that 25% of 120 is 30 credits. (120 x .25 = 30) In this policy, they are spelling out what you can’t transfer instead of what you can. It’s a little less direct, but by requiring you to complete 25%, they are allowing you to transfer in the remaining 75% (90 credits).

You’ll occasionally see variations and stipulations, but if you take a moment to understand exactly what they’re allowing, you’ll know whether or not it’s a good policy!

3 Key Points

(1)  Your teen can begin a college degree at home at any age. Colleges almost always have admissions requirements that stipulate age or diploma, but even when they’re not yet eligible to enroll in their target college as an official student, you can make the most of their high school time by resourcefully planning their courses to meet high school and college requirements simultaneously.

(2) The cheapest credit is 100 and 200 level. Everyone has access to low-cost college credit at the 100 and 200 level by using CLEP, AP, DSST, dual enrollment, or any of the many credit options listed on this website. What is harder to plan, and generally more expensive, are the final upper-level requirements during years 300 and 400. A resourceful plan allows you to complete 2-3 years of college for about $3,000. To put this in perspective, the average college degree costs $100,000. By eliminating the first 2-3 years of rack rate tuition- you’ll save! This saves as much as $75,000. For those who use The Big 3, you’ll save the most and bring the cost of a degree down significantly.

(3) Be your teen’s guidance counselor! Colleges advisors or financial aid counselors have no incentive to help you save time or money. Trust me, no one cares about your teen’s college cost more than you do, and no one wants them to attend college debt-free more than you do.

Moving Forward

Degree planning is tricky, but it’s not impossible.  When I first started degree planning, it wasn’t as an advisor. As an advisor, I simply told my students what classes to sign up for! I had no vested interest in how long it took them to earn their degree, what they paid (or borrowed), and whether they graduated. It’s easy to be an advisor for a college; it’s a one-size-fits-all approach for a reason. When you Homeschool for College Credit, you take charge of the process. While most parents are worried that their kids will get IN to college, degree planning is a strategy to get them OUT (with a degree). Any motivated parent can learn to degree plan!


Earlier this year, I had the privilege of meeting with Danika Recore, the best degree planner I know. She and I have worked side by side as volunteer degree planners and advisors at Degree Forum for over a decade, and she works as a professional degree planner for many big-name companies you’d recognize if I were allowed to share. In short, she’s the one I call when I get stuck. The purpose of our meeting was to talk about how to teach degree planning to other parents. She and I both learned the hard way, which is to say we learned by doing, and doing, and doing.

You may have attended a homeschool convention or seminar and encountered a large company that will do degree planning for you, but I’ve always believed it was more valuable to “teach a man to fish,” so they can then teach others, who can teach others, who can teach others. Homeschooling for College Credit was founded on that principle, and I know it’s valuable because the company that degree plans for you charge $7,500 per year – and you can bet it will take more than one year! Check for yourself.

And so, I’m very excited to announce the release of a new Degree Planning Masterclass that will “teach you how to fish.”  Sure, degree planning can feel overwhelming at first, but just like Homeschooling for College Credit, once you understand the overreaching principles, any homeschool parent can learn how to do it. The Masterclass is fully online, self-paced, and includes my support and guidance. Through the class, you’ll learn from Danika and me how to degree plan like an expert! In addition, we even have a coaching option for those who want us to degree plan with you.

As you learn to develop a degree plan, you’ll become educated in degree planning – a skill that you can use with each of your teens. We’ve got a lot of content in the “free preview” so you can really sink in and enjoy a lot of content before you enroll. And as always, if you need extra help, just drop me a message, I’m happy to help if I can.

Degree Planning Masterclass with FREE PREVIEW



Sign up for the Masterclass


The rest of this series:

Degree Planning 101, Part 1 of 4

Degree Planning 101, Part 2 of 4

Degree Planning 101, Part 3 of 4




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