PART 2 of 4
Degree planning, in contrast to high school planning, is when your teen’s courses are selected to meet the requirements for a specific college degree. In this 4-part series, I’d like to talk more about degree planning, especially the pros and cons.
In Part 1, we discussed a few scenarios where degree planning made sense and a few where it didn’t. As we move ahead, this series is for those of you who have decided to move ahead with degree planning. You are your teen’s best guidance counselor, so the decision is yours. If you struggle with making that decision, my advice is to pause, wait a semester, and revisit the question again later.
Laws and Such
Nothing tanks a program faster than finding out you’ve missed something very important. Before you can plan for a degree, it’s imperative that you understand your state’s laws for legally homeschooling. In order to enroll in ANY degree program at ANY college in the country, your teen will need a high school diploma. Whether or not your diploma is recognized by the college depends on whether or not you’ve met your state’s requirements for homeschooling and graduation. While not every state has graduation requirements, some do, so it’s worth a quick check just to make sure you’re up to date on your state’s laws. You can check your state’s laws at the Homeschool Legal Defense Association’s website.
Occupational Outlook Handbook
In Part 1, I mentioned that your teen should have their target occupation lined up. This can be general (“something in computers”) or specific (“nurse”), but they should have some idea. If they’re still not sure, or even if they are, I want you to take a quick diversion over to the U.S. Department of Labor’s website and check out the Occupational Outlook Handbook. If you’ve read Homeschooling for College Credit, you know that I mention this site often, because it’s one of the few sites you can trust for truthful information about careers and occupations. It’s on this site where you’ll find the real education needed for various careers and the real expectation for job growth for that job. Not every degree program that is offered by a college comes with a high-paying career, so, in this part of the process, you’ll need to research with your teen to make sure their occupation and degree line up with their goals and expectations.
Start with CLEP
With degree planning, you have to start somewhere, and my favorite place to start is CLEP. If your teen isn’t great with multiple choice tests, you can visit my list of 30 Ways To Earn College Credit in High School.
Early in my career as a college administrator, I handled all of the college advising for my department. Though we were an official CLEP testing center, I’d worked at the college about ten years before I even heard of CLEP! Now I have an affection for that exam brand because I used CLEP to conduct my own “experiment” of testing out of an entire degree. I did that in 2008, but now, in 2020, we have an even better reason to use CLEP exams. Modern States (a non-profit organization) will give you a voucher to take a CLEP exam for free, so it’s even BETTER than when I took my exams. To learn about how to take your CLEP exams for free, be sure to read that post (bottom of page) when you’re finished. It’s an awesome program!
What I like about CLEP for degree planning is the simplicity of the process. There are a lot of credit options that are much more complicated, and sometimes the titles and credit evaluators make it tricky for even an experienced degree planner to figure out, but that’s not the case with CLEP. In almost every case, CLEP exam policies are openly written on a college’s website, about 1/2 the colleges in the country let you use CLEP in some amount, and the entire CLEP catalog covers the general education requirements at most colleges.
Your College’s CLEP, AP, or DSST Policy
and Your Degree Requirements
Look over my shoulder while I visit this community college website. It takes less than 15 minutes to collect everything you need to get started. Be sure to find the policy for EVERY type of credit your teen hopes to earn in high school. (Remember there are 30 types of college credit you can earn!) Since we’re doing degree planning, not just casual credit-earning, we want to make SURE we can plan and match our credit up with every required course we need.
Degree planning in high school allows a parent to use the knowledge that they have about a college’s credit acceptance and credit transfer policy to their advantage. If your teen’s target college spells out a list of CLEP exams, AP exams, or DSST exams that they’ll allow for college credit, resourceful parents can take advantage of this information by carefully choosing the exams that will meet their teen’s college and high school requirements simultaneously. Since a community college covers years 1 and 2, students who know they will transfer from a community college into a 4-year university should also read the linked posts below on transfer credit and credit laundering.