Earning college credit in high school preserves your teen’s freshman application process, but what about during a gap year or several years later? Can your student still apply as a freshman? Let’s break down the different types of college credit and whether or not they turn your teen into a transfer student after high school.
Application Category: Freshman vs Transfer
To keep this very simple, if your student earns college credit during high school, they are a freshman applicant. If they earn college credit after high school, they can become a transfer applicant. The graduation date is the key. If your teen is planning a break before college, the rules for college credit change. This isn’t a case of being “bad” or “good” but it’s important to make an informed decision based on your teen’s goals.
According to the IPEDS directory (federal government mandated reporting for all colleges that are authorized by the US Department of Education), “A student who has no prior postsecondary experience (except as noted below) attending any institution for the first time at the undergraduate level. This includes students enrolled in academic or occupational programs. It also includes students enrolled in the fall term who attended college for the first time in the prior summer term, and students who entered with advanced standing (college credits or recognized postsecondary credential earned before graduation from high school).”
Does it matter?
It depends on what you’re looking for. I’ve helped several parents pursue “transfer applicant” status so their teens could avoid submitting and SAT score or living on campus. Other families are intentionally trying to preserve their teen’s freshman status. There are pros and cons to both, and it’s worth pointing out that a student who starts college with a lot of college credit usually saves more on their degree than even the best “freshman scholarships” but do your own math and decide as a family. This is one situation that extends beyond the budget and includes many other factors.
- May have earned college credit during high school but not after.
- Typically have to have specific high school courses on their transcript.
- May submit SAT/ACT/CLT scores.
- May be required to live on campus.
- Are eligible for “freshman” scholarships.
- Will compete for spots against other freshmen.
- May have earned college credit during or after high school.
- Are exempt from meeting high school course requirements.
- May be exempt from submitting SAT/ACT/CLT scores.
- May live anywhere.
- Are eligible for “transfer student” scholarships.
- Are subject to transfer admissions guidelines.
But My College Doesn’t Accept “Transfer Credit”
Whether or not their target college accepts transfer credit has no bearing on their freshman or transfer application status. College credit listed on the table as “counts” always has to be disclosed. Understanding the rules will help you plan. Your teen may be forced to apply as a transfer student at a college that doesn’t accept transfer credit, or you may incorrectly assume that by racking up loads of CLEP credit you can circumvent the freshman admissions testing requirement.
Gap Year College Credit: Safe or Not?
Not all college credit taken after high school during a gap year is counted “against” your teen’s freshman application status, but many types are. In this table, you can see which types of credits WILL COUNT against their freshman application and those that won’t. To emphasize, this table is a college application planning tool and not a college credit transfer tool. Admissions is a separate process than evaluating college credit for transferability.
Your teen can safely take classes listed as “does not count” during their gap year and it will not change their application status. Do not alter the credits in any way or try to credit launder them onto a new transcript. Leave them with their original source.
The credit types listed as “counts” will most certainly count against your teen’s freshman application status when earned after high school. Be sure to check if other factors that may be applied to your student’s status like their age, military attendance, or number of years since high school graduation.
|Credit Type||Count Against Freshman Applicant Status?|
|Dual enrollment summer school college class that started before high school graduation.||Does not count|
|Dual enrollment summer school college class that started after high school graduation.||Counts|
|In-person college course through a college that issues a letter grade on a college transcript.||Counts|
|In-person college course through a college that is taken as an audit and does not award college credit or a letter grade.||Does not count|
|College course that awards “CEU” credit.||Does not count|
|Course that awards “Professional Development” credit.||Does not count|
|Online college course through a college that issues a letter grade on a college transcript.||Counts|
|Arizona State University Universal Learner ($25 option only)||Does not count|
|Arizona State University Universal Learner ($25+$400 option)||Counts|
|Veritas Press / Scholars Academy||Counts|
|Classical Conversations Plus||Counts|
|IEW Christian Halls||Counts|
|Advanced Placement Exam||Does not count|
|CLEP Exam||Does not count|
|DSST Exam||Does not count|
|ACTFL Exam||Does not count|
|NYU-FLP Exam||Does not count|
|ALEKS Math Classes||Does not count|
|Saylor Academy Classes||Does not count|
|Sophia Classes||Does not count|
|Straighterline Classes||Does not count|
|Study(.)com Classes||Does not count|
|Statistic(.)com Classes||Does not count|
|See More Impact Labs / CSM Learn Class||Does not count|
|Gateway Education Classes||Does not count|
|TEEX Classes||Does not count|
|Coopersmith Classes||Does not count|
|Davar Academy Classes||Does not count|
|Law Shelf Classes||Does not count|
|Online Degree(.)com Classes||Does not count|
|MOOCs (EdX, Hillsdale, Coursera, etc.)||Does not count|
|Olivet Nazarene University / Your Way||Counts|
|College credits on a Credly transcript||Does not count|
|Study Abroad program that “awards college credit” through the American Council on Education||Does not count|
|Study Abroad program that “awards college credit” through a college||Counts|
|College courses you started but formally withdrew from (resulting in a “W” grade on a transcript)||Counts|