Posted in HS4CC

12 Reasons to Earn College Credit if your Teen isn’t Going to College

Ok, what? If your teen isn’t going to college, then why should they earn college credit? In this post, we’ll look beyond their immediate plans and I’ll give you 12 good reasons I think they should earn college credit anyway.

(1) College can bank it for later

Not only do young teenage minds change, but middle aged adult minds change too! Over 50% of teens who started college left without a degree. Those teens are walking around right now- we call them “adults.” Adults have returned to college in record numbers, likely a combination of factors including remote learning /online learning, disposable income, needed a degree for work or promotion, and reduced stigma of adult learners. Having a little college credit “in the bank” now gives them a little start if they later decide to return to college. Most college credit earned in dual enrollment is valid FOREVER and most credit by exam scores are valid for 20 years. A bachelor’s degree is 120 college credits (about 40 classes) so every one they do now is potentially one less to do later!

(2) It costs less money in high school

Some of you are fortunate to live in states that fund tuition and fees for students in high school. In these states, the savings will pay off multiples greater than you can imagine. Besides the fact that tuition may be reduced for free in high school, the other side of the coin is that with 100% certainty, you’ll be charged full price after high school. This is true of every state, so those dual enrollment programs are only available to teens still in school. One thing to remember is that all tuition goes up so no matter what it costs today, in 10 years it will cost more!

(3) Get job-ready

Now with access to dual enrollment programs (locally and online) in all 50 states, your teen may be able to complete an entire career or technical certificate and licensure program in high school. These programs range from 1 class to a dozen, but are intentionally designed for occupational training. Examples of careers that require certificates or licenses that can be earned (or at least nearly earned) using college credit from high school include: EMT or paramedic, IT professional, real estate agent, small business owner, nurse’s aid or assistant, HVAC technician, Commercial Truck Driver, welding, automotive, and hundreds others.

(4) It is easy to integrate into homeschool

Parents, you’re choosing the curriculum your teen is using, so you might as well chose programs that bring college credit into your homeschool. This can be done seamlessly by either using college classes or arranging for your teen to take a college credit by exam option after your homeschool class. For example, instead of your teen studying high school US History for a year and only walking away with high school credit, they can earn up to 6 college credits by taking both semesters at the community college or by taking the CLEP exam at home. In both cases, the student is learning something they were going to study anyway, and that effort still grants high school credit- but with the added bonus of some college credit to have later.

(5) Apprenticeship programs use college credit

If your teen is looking at an apprenticeship, you might be surprised to learn that many apprenticeship programs have an educational component that includes college classes. This may range from 2-3 classes to more than a dozen, but if college classes will be part of their apprenticeship, you can arrange for them to complete the classes now and free up their apprenticeship schedule when they enroll. Look for requirements like College Algebra, College Math, English Composition, or Information Technology. These are typical requirements that are also considered “general education” and will be easy to earn in high school for use later in the apprenticeship.

(6) Military awards bonuses for college credit

Sign-on bonuses rise and fall with each new administration, but without a doubt, their college credit will likely be worth something! Check current programs, but as one example, those enlisting in the Navy today get a nice extra bonus for all levels of educational attainment. High school graduates are awarded $3,000, those with 12 college credits get an extra $2,000, and those with 24 college credits get $3,000. Finish that associate degree and they’ll give you $5,000 and if you finish the bachelor’s it’s an extra $8,000. Keep in mind these are just bonuses, and you also get a bump in rank in EVERY BRANCH when you enlist with a degree. Furthermore, degrees are required to become an officer, which enjoys nearly double the salary.

(7) Brain health is important

“When we are young our brains are more receptive and flexible.” A 2011 study by the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry at the University of Alberta revealed that the human brain continues developing until our mid-20s. Robust learning also slows down the aging process. Brain agility when acquired at a young age makes it less likely that there will be an abrupt deterioration in brain processes. Brain health is improved by:

  • learning new things
  • strengthen memory
  • read longer, read faster, read more
  • learn a foreign language

As you can guess, teens that aren’t super motivated academically aren’t making the most of their high school years or their brain health. If your teen is just going through the motions of their high school courses, bring in some college credit that will engage and excite them! It doesn’t have to “count” for a degree, it also doesn’t have to mean they commit to a career or occupation, it can be for interest and pleasure and brain health!

(8) Outsource expensive or difficult classes

Outsourcing classes is a fantastic way to bring expensive and highly technical experiences into your homeschool without breaking the bank. If your teen is passionate about culinary arts, it’s nearly impossible to set up a commercial grade kitchen in your home, to learn meat fabrication without an expert mentor, to season well, and to adjust your knife position “just so” to improve your skills. Neverminded the cost of trying to duplicate this type of experience in your home when you can outsource it to the local community college for a few hundred dollars. There are thousands of experts in trades, foreign language, sign language, health care, biology, chemistry, calculus, ceramics, painting, computer programing, and even glass blowing! If your teen has access to dual enrollment locally, they have an entire world of opportunities available to them, and possibly for free or reduced college today. Remember, the cost goes up to full price once they graduate high school.

(9) Your teen is planning a gap year

When your teen takes a gap year, it usually involves some kind of non-academic endeavor. Most teens travel, volunteer, work, open a business, join a collective, or just take time to find themselves. When your teen’s gap year ends, many teens have decided at that point to attend college. If your teen earned college credit in high school, they will have retained their freshman status, allowing them to apply as a first time incoming freshman. Teens who earn college credit during or after their gap year are no longer first time incoming freshman. As a guideline, if your teen finishes 30 college credits (about 10 college classes) throughout their high school program, at the completion of their gap year when they enroll in college, they will apply as a freshman but in reality will be exactly the same rank (rising college sophomore) as their age-mates who graduated high school without college credit. Your teen will have “worked ahead” in high school, giving them the advantage of having a year’s college banked and ready to use!

(10) Parental guidance with challenging topics

Without question I support free speech. I also support academic freedom and the growth we experience as we wrestle with ideas that differ from our own. What we know biologically is that adolescence is a time of change and growth, but we also know that psychological and social factors have a strong influence on who we become as a person in society. Big topics like politics, gender, family, marriage, religion, economics, inequality, justice, and others are all part of a general college curriculum. What is unknown are the biases and opinions of professors as they explore those topics. In my own home, when my oldest son started studying these subjects as a college class, it was really unnerving because I felt like our position might be threatened and undermined. What ended up actually happening was an opportunity for us to discuss these big “adult” topics like adults. By the time my third son was in dual enrollment, I actually looked forward to it! By helping our sons explore and articulate their opinions, make logical statements, use reason, to think critically and make sound arguments, it was such a great experience. I don’t know that all of these topics would have naturally found their way into our family conversations otherwise, or later if he were an adult taking the courses living away from home.

(11) Feeling of accomplishment

I have received dozens of messages and emails from parents who tell me that earning college credit, even in small amounts, has done wonders for their teen’s self esteem. I’ve seen this with my own teens, and I think it is partially due to not having the constant evaluation that comes from attending schools with groups of other teens. Homeschoolers don’t always “know” if they are “good in school” because they have no context. Parents love that our kids avoid labels, but to a teen, that lack of outside evaluation can result in feelings of uncertainty. They wonder “do I measure up?” and they may feel anxiety around if they are less than, equal to, or more than, their peers. This matters because they may worry that they aren’t “smart enough” or “good enough” for college. Passing a college class or two helps a teen really feel good about their ability to accomplish what they out to do.

(12) Develop writing skills

Whether it’s a vocational technical class or English 101, there is no way to get around the fact that college classes include writing. In 2023, “writing” isn’t just writing! Writing in 2023 also means extensive computer skills, typing skills, word processing proficiency, using software for presentations, uploading files and photos and videos, sending emails to professors, communicating on digital forum message boards with classmates, conducting research online, navigating academic formats, and understanding plagiarism, and the ethical use of AI. There’s a lot to know! When your teen takes a college class, especially if it’s remote, their writing skills and all of the associated skills are strengthened. No matter what occupational pathway your teen has in mind, the ability to present themselves in written form is more important than ever.


Executive Director of Homeschooling for College Credit