You’ll read about teens finishing 1, 2, 3, or even 4 years of college in high school, but how does everyone go so fast? The traditional college student takes 6 years to earn a degree, so what’s going on?
First of all, anything faster than four years after high school is faster than average. College’s reports and data collected tell us that it actually takes students closer to six years on average to earn a 4-year degree.
The longer your student spends “in” college the more it costs, the harder it is to finish, and the longer they’ll have to wait before starting their career (earning money). With student loans funding the majority of a student’s degree, every additional year adds significant cost to the student.
Anyone can get into college, but getting out of college is a BIG accomplishment, and something achieved by only about half those who try. Colleges are NOT GREAT at getting students out. The sooner your student starts earning college credit, the sooner you take the reigns and can help direct their path to the goal: graduation.
Colleges have no financial incentive to graduate students; they benefit the most while your student is enrolled. Colleges are required to comply with reporting requirements if they participate in the Federal Financial Aid process, but only when a college has significantly failed to comply with the 150% time-limit will the school come under scrutiny. You can read more about enrollment reporting compliance here.
4 years x 150% = 6 years before anyone cares
So, why are people here faster?
- Sense of urgency. Knowing that the goal is to get out of college (not to get in) parents have an unemotional view of the process. X credits until graduation. Since students can earn college credits at any age, there’s usually no reason to wait if your student is ready. While some families start in middle school, most of our families here start in high school, the average being 11th grade. Our average family that starts in 11th grade will earn 30 college credits (1 year of college) before high school graduation.
- Identify the goal. Seeing the goalpost, identifying it, and working toward it WITH the entire family makes all the difference in the world. College advisors are not nearly as dedicated to efficiency as you might expect. A teen having a parent in their corner, understanding graduation requirements, helping pick classes, making sure prerequisites are met, etc. are all helpful ways to get to graduation.
- Homeschooling is supervised. I’m sure we’ve all heard the argument that college is about the “experience” but that “experience” comes at a price! I’m not trying to throw hate at the college’s indoor waterpark, gourmet steak house, full-service salon and spa, or even the trendy “pet-friendly” dorms but these desperate attempts to attract and retain enrollment have nothing to do with academics! At the very least, while your student is at home in high school, their schoolwork can just as easily earn them college credit. The “experience” of college (and what you’re willing to pay for it) can be a separate discussion.
- Parents as guidance counselors. As a former college advisor, trust me when I tell you that no employee cares as much about your student’s education, degree, financial aid, or major as you do. The secret ingredient in any family that is Homeschooling for College Credit is the parent. Plain and simple. When you map the course, things will get done.
Practical Tips & Considerations
Semester length/college classes (whole semester classes taught online by a college) are trending toward faster options, especially for distance learning. A typical semester has always been 16 weeks, but it’s getting more common to see 8-week semesters available next to 16-week options. This allows you to fill a single time slot in your teen’s day with two college courses (course 1 during weeks 1-8, course 2 during weeks 9-16). While the work may be a little more intense, homeschooling families can adjust their student’s homeschool course load if things need shifting to accommodate a demanding project or paper.
College at home vs. a physical place Our family uses distance learning a LOT. Even my son who is enrolled at the local college completes the majority of his courses as a distance learning student. This cuts out a TON of time. For starters, there is no clock- if you’re wide awake at 2 am, you can do school. If you have a ski trip planned, you can log in from the lodge. When you take away getting up, packing lunch, getting dressed, driving, parking, walking to class, sitting through class and doing it all in reverse, you can shave 10 hours off your week just BEING at home to learn instead of going somewhere. Add that with the increased efficiency of a self-paced schedule (available at some colleges) and you’re now able to complete MANY more courses than the standard 10 per year. Physically “going” somewhere to learn was a requirement for our generation, but that’s not the case for college students in 2020.
Credit by Exam credit is literally earned in 90 minutes. You go to the center and take the test. CLEP and DSST exams are there whenever you are ready – so again, you have control over this. How you get the content into your brain is up to you. My advice is to choose credit by exam that follows your homeschool schedule. For instance, if you’re studying US History this year, it makes the most sense to take the US History CLEP exams. Using your existing high school plan to pick your CLEP exams is a no brainer! Test prep can take as little as a few days or a few weeks, but some students with strong test-taking skills can easily “test out” of an entire year of college in high school.
Self-paced Courses are less common for traditional college attendance, but they exist! Colleges like BYU offer an independent study catalog open to any age and allows completion at any pace. (Note: Enroll in courses marked “university” and not those marked “high school” to earn college credit.) These courses should easily transfer into a traditional college later. In addition, if you’re especially interested in earning a degree in high school, many businesses that offer courses for college credit (Sophia, Straighterline, Studycom, Saylor Academy, Lumerit, etc.) have partnerships with colleges that guarantee transfer. When the transfer is guaranteed, parents can switch out their high school curriculum with college-level curriculum and complete courses at an exceptional pace! Remember, you’re not graduating high school early, you’re simply using college courses as your homeschool high school courses.
Resourceful high school planning means making efficient use of your student’s time and money. The goal here is not to waste steps. Find out EXACTLY what you need, how to do it quickly and cheaply, and go full speed in that direction. When you take frat parties, football games, and physically sitting in a desk in a specific location out of the equation, it’s amazing how quickly (and inexpensively) you can get things done.