College Admissions Part III
Fall is planting season, a mild season that allows trees and shrubs time to take root before winter frosts arrive. Likewise, this is the season for you to plant God's Word and wisdom in the hearts and minds of your children "so they will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified." (Isaiah 61:3b NASB) Be encouraged as you set this year's school routine knowing that each day is a new opportunity to trust in the faithfulness of a God who loves you and who loves your children. Keeping your eyes on eternity always blurs the present challenges.
This month's newsletter is the last installment of a three-part series on The Road to College Admissions. The previous two newsletters covered the spiritual preparation for college, the college search process, the application process, and campus visits. Today we'll take a look at alternatives to the traditional college route.
Sending your child off to college and having him live away from home may not be the direction you want to take because you may feel that your child is not mature enough to live on his own, or that he is not spiritually ready to face assaults on his faith. Or, you may be looking for a less expensive way to provide a college education. Whatever the reason for checking out the alternatives, it is gratifying to know that options do exist, and that it is possible to rack up many (if not all) credits needed to graduate from college without compromising your wallet or your convictions.
We'll divide up the options to the non-traditional college route by looking first at accruing college credits while still in high school, and then providing information on pursuing post-high school college credit from home.
During high school, accruing college credit can be accomplished by completing Advanced Placement (AP) courses and scoring well on AP tests, taking courses at a local community college (either on campus or online), registering for distance learning courses from colleges nationwide, or receiving college credit based on CLEP or DANTES test scores.
COLLEGE CREDITS EARNED DURING HIGH SCHOOL
- Advanced Placement Courses and Tests: Advanced Placement courses are rigorous courses taken in high school but using college level texts. Not only do students cover the course material, but they also prepare to take the corresponding AP test administered by the College Board. In recent years, many more homeschoolers are finding that AP courses and tests are ways to legitimize in the eyes of colleges the advanced level of work they are capable of doing. AP courses entail much work and study (usually a minimum of 10 hours per course per week.) Read more about AP courses and tests on the HSLDA website.
Keep in mind that as a homeschooler, you must arrange to take the AP test (given in May of each year) by contacting a public or private school in your area and requesting that it accommodate your child for the test. Since schools order the test early, it's best to check with them by December or January prior to the May test date to inquire about taking the test. If you are an HSLDA member and run into any problems when making arrangements for taking an AP test, please call HSLDA for assistance at 540-338-5600.
- Local Community and 4-Year Colleges: It is often possible for your high schooler to register for college courses (either on campus or online) at a 2-year or 4-year college while still in high school. Commonly called "dual enrollment," courses earned in this way may count as fulfilling both high school and college credit. A recent article in the Court Report "A Two For One Deal: Looking at Dual Enrollment" describes this option in detail.
- Distance Learning Programs: Many high school students, including homeschoolers, are takingadvantage of a variety of distance learning programs offered by 4-year colleges nationwide. Christian as well as secular colleges offerdistance learning programs and this alternative is attractive since your child completes the course from the comfort (and safety!) of your home. Use the College Board search engine to find colleges offering distance learning programs, and use the website to find Christian colleges. Some distance learning links are also listed on HS
- CLEP or DANTES Tests: CLEP (College Level Examination Program) tests are given at test centers on college campuses throughout the country. These tests validate the knowledge that a student has acquired through individual study, work experience and so on, in particular subject areas. Registration at the individual test center is required for these tests. Test prep books and CD's are available at your local bookstore or online to help your child prepare.
Not all colleges accept CLEP credits, and some colleges place a limit on the number of CLEP credits they will allow so be sure to check out this information from individual college websites or by searching on the College Board website. Each college determines the minimum CLEP score on a particular test that qualifies for receiving college credit. Be sure to check with any college that your child is thinking about attending full time in order to discuss its CLEP credit acceptance policies. Read more about CLEP tests on the HSLDA website and the College Board website.
DANTES (Defense Activity for Non-traditional Education Support (DSST)) tests are similar to CLEP tests. At one time these tests were only available to military personnel, but they are now open to anyone. More information regarding these tests and registering for them can be found at http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=3342.
When taking CLEP or DANTES tests, it is best to register for and take the test soon after the course material is covered. For example, if your child has just completed a biology course in 10th grade, consider registering for the CLEP Biology test at that point while the information is fresh in his/her mind instead of waiting until yourchild is a senior.
COLLEGE CREDITS EARNED AFTER HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATION
Once your child has graduated from high school, he or she can continue earning college credits through the community college, commuting to a 4-year college, taking distance learning courses, or taking and scoring high enough on CLEP or DANTES tests. However, there are also a couple of other ways to accrue college credit.
- Credit by Examination or Portfolio Assessment: Some colleges offer the option of having your child demonstrate his knowledge and expertise in a subject area by either taking a test or presenting a portfolio for review by a college professor. It is necessary to identify a college course to match the learning experience. Contact a specific college to inquire about this possibility.
- Total Degree Programs from Home: A number of colleges offer the opportunity to earn college degrees totally through distance learning. Some of the better known colleges where this is possible include: Thomas Edison State College, Excelsior College, and Charter Oak College.
As you can see from the above information, the options are many and varied! Take time to check out all of your alternatives. Investigate more from the following good resources to learn further how your child can earn college credits in a non-traditional way. We highly recommend that you refer to the resource books for a much more thorough and detailed discussion of this topic. We are only able to point out the highlights of these alternatives within the space of one newsletter.
- "College Without Compromise," Scott and Kris Wightman
- "Accelerated Distance Learning: The New Way to Earn Your College Degree in the Twenty-First Century," Brad Voeller
- "Bears Guide To Earning Degrees By Distance Learning" by Mariah P. Bear and Thomas Nixon
- "Bears' Guide to College Degrees by Mail & Internet: 100 Accredited Schools That Offer Bachelor's, Master's, Doctorates, and Law Degrees by Distance Learning (College Degrees By Mail and Internet)" by John and Mariah Bear
Josh Beall, homeschool graduate and current HSLDA Web Developer, took an alternative route to obtain his college degree. We've asked him to share his personal experience with you.
"When I was initially investigating college options, distance learning never actually crossed my mind. In order to save money, I took several courses at a community college as well as one CLEP course (freshman college composition), which fulfilled my English requirements for my freshman year. I subsequently took a year off from school; and during that year, I heard Brad Voeller of Global Learning Strategies speak at a local homeschool gathering. Curious, I began investigating distance learning further and eventually worked with GLS to develop a plan to obtain a B.S. in Business Administration from Thomas Edison State College. I completed my degree within approximately one year's time. Distance learning also afforded me the opportunity to study a range of subjects independently (and I love independent study!), start and grow a business with my brother (I wouldn't have been able to do this had I gone away for college), and save enough money to buy a house when I got married (shortly after graduating). Additionally, upon completion of my degree, I felt I had a much more well-rounded set of skills and experiences as a result of being able to spend a great deal of time actually working in the real world, and not just sitting in a classroom."
One of the alternatives mentioned above may be the right path for your child. If you are interested, use this information to begin your investigation!
Next month, join us as we discuss the topic of high school graduation requirements and questions such as: How many credits are needed to graduate? What are the core academic subjects? What's the difference between an elective course and an extracurricular activity? And many more...
As always, we appreciate the opportunity to join you on this
homeschooling through high school adventure!
Blessings to you,
Becky and Diane
This resource is an article from the Homeschooling Thru Highschool newsletter (10/5/2006), and is provided by the Home School Legal Defense Association as a service to the homeschooling community.