Using CLEP at “Expensive Universities”

I subscribe to the Modern States email list and read a wonderful update from a student planning to attend Boston University in the future- and how she used CLEP toward her journey. CLEP often gets bundled in with people choosing community colleges or online universities, so my first question – “what’s their CLEP policy?”

CLEP policies at colleges will vary widely, but as it turns out, Boston University’s policy is AMAZING!

“Both examination programs [CLEP and DSST] are approved by the American Council on Education and provide students with the opportunity to obtain college credit by examination. Students are allowed to receive up to two years of academic credit by examination for knowledge obtained outside the classroom.”

2 years! A typical “year” of college = 30 college credits, so 2 years allows a resourceful student to carefully plan 60 college credits before they ever set foot on campus. Since CLEP does not count “against” a freshman applicant or FAFSA, a student entering with 2 years of CLEP credit is still considered an incoming freshman.

When planning to DIY college credit this way in advance, it’s important to remember these tips:

(1) Most colleges do not award credit for every exam. This is not unusual, so don’t be alarmed if a college excludes a specific exam from their list. (Trust, but verify- you’ll still want to write an email and make sure it’s not an oversight)

(2) Colleges will only be mildly enthusiastic about this plan. Let’s face it, even though a college has an official policy accepting credit by exam, that doesn’t mean the person has to HELP YOU figure this out. It’s not in a college’s best interest to hand-hold so you can avoid paying tuition! If you want this benefit, you’ll have to do a little extra work on your own, but you can do it!

(3) Watch for updates at the start of every academic year. The closer your teen is to enrollment (after high school graduation) the more closely you should monitor, but if your teen is 2+ years away from enrollment, your time is better spent on accumulating as much credit as possible, especially if you’re not 100% sure of a target college. When you’re undecided, it’s best to simply coordinate your CLEP exams alongside your normal high school curriculum. Studying Spanish? Take the Spanish CLEP. Studying Biology? Take the Biology CLEP. You can focus more once you start to zero on on a few colleges.

Each academic year generally starts in the fall (Aug/Sept) and a college will release a new "catalog" in anticipation of the academic year. We see new catalogs come out around July each year. An "academic catalog" for the date range you're starting will outline academic policies and degree requirements for everyone starting at that time.  As long as you're still an active degree seeking student, you'll follow the policies of that catalog (even if the college changes things) so this is an important thing to know!  You could make big mistakes if you're using an old catalog from last year.  

Link to Boston University (Metro Campus) Tuition Rates for 2020-2021

Back to Boston…

From Modern State’s email:

Boston University-bound student earns free college credit with
Modern States
Mariam H.Mariam H. New Yorker Mariam H., a 17-year-old 2020 graduate of Central Park East High School, wanted to find a useful way to spend her time during the pandemic. When school administrators told her about Modern States, she thought it was the perfect educational opportunity. “I love to learn and taking online classes sounded like a great way to do something academic,” she said.

But wait, there’s more…

It’s really heartwarming to hear Mariam’s story and celebrate her success. She passed 3 CLEP exams, which will save her a semester’s tuition and shave a semester off her degree ($28,427!) but with resourceful planning, she could have shaved 4 semesters (30 credits) off of her bill before she ever started at BU.

Boston University’s own policy allows someone to bring in 60 college credits by exam. These exams match up with “lower level” first and second year courses, so you have to do this BEFORE you go – once you’re a year or two enrolled, it’s too late.

Using CLEP, you complete all 30 credits ahead of enrollment (in high school), and your “first” semester is actually Semester 5 (after high school as a freshman who will become a junior once enrolled.)

Semester 1: $28,427 per semester —> Amount you’ll pay when you CLEP = $0

Semester 2: $28,427 per semester —> Amount you’ll pay when you CLEP = $0

Semester 3: $28,427 per semester —> Amount you’ll pay when you CLEP = $0

Semester 4: $28,427 per semester —> Amount you’ll pay when you CLEP = $0

Semester 5: $28,427 per semester (CLEP unavailable)

Semester 6: $28,427 per semester (CLEP unavailable)

Semester 7: $28,427 per semester (CLEP unavailable)

Semester 8: $28,427 per semester (CLEP unavailable)

Cost for this degree with CLEPCost for this degree without CLEP
Boston University Metro Campus 2020-2021

Even with CLEP, this is a very expensive degree. But, do not become discouraged. Keep working the puzzle. Though you can’t bring the cost down lower using CLEP, you can apply aggressively for merit scholarships (based on good grades) and other special scholarships for your major.

Understanding the big picture allows you to approach the lower level classes with wisdom. As you can see in this example, it would be foolish to use your college savings for classes that can be CLEPped. Instead, save that money for later- when it’s much harder to find resources.

Modern States- Yes, CLEP is free $0

When Modern States first announced their CLEP voucher program, I was a little bit (lotta bit) skeptical about sharing information about the program. I’ve seen a lot of fly-by-night CLEP prep programs come and go – so I am very guarded about “new” CLEP prep programs. But here we are years later, and they are…

2 CLEPs to take in 10th grade

10th grade is a great time to plan a first CLEP if you have a teen who studies well and retains information. While I consider 11th and 12th grades to be the “sweet spot” to homeschool for the most college credit, CLEP exams can be taken in any grade and at any age – and…

Get a Grip on Scholarships

Scholarships sound like a saving grace, and in some cases they are.  Several good friends have used scholarships to fund their teen’s entire education.  No one is arguing that a full ride is an ultimate reward.  However, sometimes a scholarship “award” can entice you into deep debt – especially when you’re chasing small awards at…


Executive Director of Homeschooling for College Credit