Parent Question: What are some of the most common college credit classes high schoolers take? And why?

This is a great question for everyone who is thinking about bringing in college credit soon. Contrary to popular opinion, which is to “check future colleges…..” my advice is to plan those first college credit classes in subjects and at times where you’re one-hundred-percent sure it to achieve success. I think you can break this down into 3 distinct phases…

This is such a BIG question for such a short reply, but I don’t want to overwhelm you! I think about college credit all day every day, and I watch families have successes and failures. I want to set you up for success, so with that, I think you can break down your college credit decisions into 3 distinct phases.

Phase 1: Learning the Ropes

The first few college credits should fit perfectly into YOUR homeschool with complete and total disregard for “future college plans” because it’s too early for that. When you’re learning the ropes (yes, I mean YOU, not your teen) it’s hard to know what you don’t know, and it’s harder to predict what will be the best fit for your teen. Will she enjoy the structure or thrive on independent learning? Does feedback drive her to achievement, or send her into a panic? Does she have a passion for something but never studied it formally? There are a million variables, so the first few credits need to be wide open in any area that interests her, that fits into your schedule and budget, and doesn’t bind her to a degree or college. Don’t look for classes others are taking, look only at something your daughter wants to take and do that.

Phase 2: Traction

Somewhere around 12-15 college credits you’ll gain traction and begin to feel like you’re understanding the process, have an idea where to find resources, are watching your teen’s success (and challenges) and can begin to think about future planning. THIS is the phase where choosing classes starts to matter. It’s not possible for me to choose those classes without knowing her more personally, but I think the most popular or common courses in this phase will match a standard high school plan and also match a college’s general education courses. This is a loose application of advice, but courses like English, Speech, History, Algebra, Computers, Business, Art, Religion, and Science are all excellent choices for someone planning a 2 or 4 year degree.

Phase 3: Hitting Targets

At this point, “keeping options open” becomes competing advise with “hitting targets.” Please do not rush into this phase without a fully engaged teen. You and your teen need to establish a target together. I think it’s a great privilege to have that opportunity, and parents make the best guidance counselors! Together, you’ll identify a target(s) and start taking courses in the subjects that hit those targets. The target may be a specific college, a specific major, a certification or license, an apprenticeship, military, etc. The exact target is going to be unique, so the “recipe” you build for her at that time will depend greatly on the target you’re going to aim for! In this phase, there is no wasted steps. You’ll look for specific courses that meet specific requirements and accumulate those intentionally. This is the phase where parents do “degree planning” or mapping for a specific credential. This phase can happen in 10th grade like it did for my youngest son, or in their late 20’s like it did for my oldest son!


Executive Director of Homeschooling for College Credit

One thought on “Parent Question: What are some of the most common college credit classes high schoolers take? And why?

  1. I was glad to read your first phase. It’s what we did and it’s worked beautifully so far. We allowed our son to take all the computer classes he wanted to take (while keeping an eye on a 2 year degree) and saved the classes he has less interest in (English, History, Social Science) for later. He is finishing his 7th class with a 4.0, confidence, and hopefully the maturity to tackle subjects that have less intrinsic reward.

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