That’s a great question! If the degree is completed IN high school (before high school graduation) your teen is still considered a first-time freshman for admissions and FAFSAThe Department of Education and Federal Financial Aid regulation requires colleges to report data on first-time freshmen, as such, they define the first-time freshmen for data collection consistency. (Accredited colleges have to keep and report a LOT of data.)
A first time freshman is a student enrolling in college for the first time, but students who enroll in college courses during high school always wonder what to report on their college application or FAFSA application. (First-time freshman or transfer student?)
Most parents are thrilled that their teen is a first-time freshman since they are eligible for scholarships earmarked for that group, but the flip side is that you’re likely going to have to make sure your teen meets ALL the first-time freshman admissions criteria! This may include certain high school subjects, foreign language credit, GPA requirements, and the SAT or ACT exams.
Everything is simple until we start talking about a full associate’s degree. Many families here have teens that finish a full degree in high school, and that muddies the waters a lot.
First, know that colleges aren’t used to high school graduates having associate degrees- so it’s possible that your student is the first one they’ve ever encountered. (That is changing, but you’re still in rare company for now.)
If the degree was granted before high school graduation, I would expect that you’ll apply as a first-time freshman and will be required to take the SAT / ACT if that college typically asks for it. You could ask for a waiver or special exception if you like.
If the degree was granted AFTER high school graduation, your student can become a transfer student applicant based on how that college sets up criteria.
One way to set up criteria is by number of credits earned. If it is based on a number of credits, then you can simply do the math (X were earned pre-diploma, Y were earned post-diploma). For example, if the college classifies anyone with 24 college credits as a transfer student, they are counting 24 after the diploma. The credits pre-diploma aren’t counted.
Sometimes criteria are set up by age at the time of application. If it is by age, then it’s unlikely that they’ll be reclassified as transfer applicant even if they have their degree. As an example, in my state of North Carolina, our public universities consider anyone under age 21 a first-time freshman per state policy, private schools do their own thing.
Keep in mind no matter how they enter (first-time freshman/transfer) once they matriculate (accept admission and pay money) their rank will be recalculated and they’ll be classified according to the number of credits they have. (A student with an associate degree will probably be reclassified as a junior, etc.)
If you’d like to avoid the ACT/SAT, a few tips- colleges that don’t sort students into piles (first-time freshman/transfer) almost never require an SAT / ACT score for admission- so assessment colleges or those that target adults are good choices. If you’re accumulating college credit through ACE providers like Sophia, Studycom, Straighterline, Saylor Academy, etc. most of their partner colleges don’t ask for SAT / ACT scores.
Also, there is an organization that keeps a list of “test-optional” colleges and promotes test-optional admissions- linked below. https://www.fairtest.org
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