Earning one college credit puts your teen ahead! But when they start accumulating a lot of credit it’s only natural that you start to wonder how their credits will apply toward their future degree.
First things first: Most of you are not planning to complete a degree in high school. Most of you are simply helping your teen accumulate college credit that will later (after high school) be used towards a degree. But for those of you with teens who are accumulating 15 or more college credits in high school, this will help you predict where their college will place their credit.
Each college follows roughly the same flow chart. Credit is evaluated by the Registrar and assigned a place on the student’s transcript. “How” that happens isn’t entirely random.
Who is the advisor? If your teen is already enrolled in college or is 100% certain of the college they’ll attend, you should disregard this list and get guidance from their college directly! Students who have access to college advisors don’t need parents to guess. In that case, their college advisor will replace your role as their homeschool guidance counselor.
Most colleges rely on a flow chart or hierarchy of credit to help them assign credit to a category. This is a very general guide that will help you do rudimentary planning and predicting of your own.
College Credit Flow Chart
Credit is Reviewed by Registrar
- All credit is first evaluated for acceptance by a college’s Registrar. This person will confirm accreditation and check for transfer agreements that may dictate how the credit transfers. The Registrar, not Admissions or Advising, will make this call. Once the credit is accepted by the Registrar, it is entered onto your teen’s transcript at the college (see the flow that follows) and, after the initial review, a student’s academic advisor will guide all future college scheduling and selection. Note: If you want to understand why some credit is accepted while other credit is not, check out my post: Will it Transfer?
Degree Distribution Directives
- In every degree, directives will tell the advisor where the credit should fall. These directives may be vague- indicating “6 credits in social science” or they may be specific “3 credits in US History.” No matter the directive, in every case, credit is first evaluated to see if it meets one of the directives for the degree. If it does, it will fill the slot. Once a slot is full, credit overflows down to the next filter below.
General Education / General Education Electives
- The number of general education requirements and GE electives vary by the college but can be as many as 30 or more. General Education is made up of courses also known as LIBERAL ARTS and serves as the “core” requirement list for every student earning a degree at that college. It is unusual for a non-liberal arts course to count as a General Education / GE Electives, but this can vary by school. Once GE and GE Electives are full, credit overflows to the next filter below.
Free / Open Electives
- Not all colleges or degrees have openings called “Free” or “Open Electives” but the term is less important than understanding the category. This category is a “catch-all” category that includes all overflowed credit as well as credit that was accepted by the college, but didn’t fill any of the requirements of the degree. Non-liberal arts courses that don’t meet the earlier filters all overflow here. Some degrees deliberately allow for a lot of free electives to encourage adult students to return to college and bring in prior college credit.
TIPS for 4-YEAR BACHELOR OF ARTS/ SCIENCE degree seekers: As you see in the filter process, accumulating a lot of non-liberal arts credit before you’ve selected a school or degree can be risky later. As a rule of thumb for high school students who plan to earn a 4-year degree, take no more than 1 non-liberal arts course for every 2 liberal arts courses. This ratio will make for optimum transfer.
Tips for ASSOCIATE OF APPLIED SCIENCE degree seekers: It’s likely that your degree will require no more than 15 general education courses. If possible, your best bet is to avoid accumulating more than 6 credits in any one liberal arts category. For instance, no more than 6 credits of history. Instead, earn credit (1 class or 2) in each category. Since the majority of this degree will consist of degree-specific courses, you don’t need a lot of liberal arts/gen eds.
Tips for ASSOCIATE OF ARTS seekers: Most of the AA degrees consist entirely of liberal arts courses. As such, choose only courses from the liberal arts list.
The following subjects are usually classified as LIBERAL ARTS
Art / Fine Art
Mathematics / Statistics
The following subjects are usually NOT classified as LIBERAL ARTS
Automotive / Engine / Body / Machine
Allied Health / Dental
Business / Accounting
Health Education / PE / Fitness
Health Services / Medical Assistant
Home Economics / Culinary Arts
Management / Business /Human Resources
Marketing / Sales / Advertising / Graphic Design
Nursing / Nursing Assistant
Recreation / Coaching / Sport / Leisure
Rehabilitation Services / Counseling
Secretarial Science / Administrative Assistant
Social Work / Counseling
Technical Services / Repair
Student Success / Study Skills / Intro to College / Orientation
Get a copy of Homeschooling for College Credit and start resourcefully planning your teen’s high school career!