Earning college credit is not just something you can only do if you’re enrolled in college. Some students earn college credit essentially homeschooling college—while they’re still in high school. Summer is a great time to do this. My sons homeschooled college the summer after their junior year, before applying to college. I wanted to figure out how much they knew, and this helped us make sure they were placed appropriately in college. They earned all of their college credits through CLEP tests over the summer, and this is something that your student can do, too.
Assess KnowledgeThe first step to homeschooling college is to assess. The book we found most helpful in this process was CLEP Official Study Guide 2016. I had my sons look at the table of contents in this study guide and decide which of the tests they thought they might be able to pass. Then they took that particular sample test, and if they got 50 or more correct, we knew it was worth studying for the official test. A score of 50 (or sometimes lower) is usually a passing score on the CLEP, because all of the questions are hard.
Study the Subject The next step we did was study, and we bought a study guide for the subject area they were going to take a test in. For example, my youngest son’s highest score was in American History, so I bought the REA study guide for CLEP American History, and gave him one week to look over it at his leisure. He read his REA study guides during swim meets. It wasn’t hard, and it didn’t bother him at all. Other people might do a little bit of study for half an hour to an hour a day for a while, just to see if they can get the best possible score.
Take Test The next step in homeschooling college is to actually take your student to the testing area. You must make an appointment to take the exam, which you can do by visiting the College Board website at www.collegeboard.org. Select the CLEP section at the bottom of the page, and find the locations close to you where tests are offered. Tests are scored right after your student completes the test (with a few exceptions), so you will know before you leave what their final score is. Different colleges award credit for CLEP scores in different ways. For example, one college might give your student 5 college credits for a score of 50, while others might award only 3 credits for the same score. Check with the colleges you’re interested in to learn their policies and score requirements. There are a few colleges who do not give credit for CLEP tests, so it’s a good idea to find out whether the colleges you’re interested in will give you credit.
Report Score Although you can if you want to, you don’t have to report your test scores to a college immediately. During the summer when we homeschooled college, we only reported scores to my sons’ number-one college. We did this because I felt very confident that this college would be happy that I was keeping in touch with them, but we didn’t report scores to all the other colleges that they applied to.
Add to Transcript Once your child has taken a CLEP test, how do you record it on their high school transcript? Course titles can be taken directly from the name of the CLEP test. For instance, if the CLEP test is called Microeconomics, that is the course title you should use on your transcript. If your student earns a score of 50 or more, they’ve passed a college level course, which in college they would have gotten at least a C for, so it makes sense to call it an A as a high school level course. For every passing grade they earned, I gave my children an A. In addition, every time they earned a passing grade, they also earned one high school credit, comparable to a full college credit. I also gave them an honors designation on their transcript.
The last step after passing the test is to have a little party! For each college credit earned, I gave my children an ice cream cone, which seemed a little silly at that time, but my children were happy. You could give them a small gift or flowers, go on a picnic, or have some sort of treat to say “you just earned college credit by simply taking this one test and for just studying an hour a day during summer.”
Save MoneyHomeschooling college can save a lot of money at a university. Eventually, you will want to report your student’s CLEP scores to the colleges they’re interested in applying to. The College Board allows you to choose which scores you send where. There is a slight fee for this service, which was always worth it to me for my mental health. If you wait until the end of the summer to send your scores, it may result in $100 in fees, but because these scores ultimately translate into thousands of dollars in college credits, we didn’t mind the small cost of this.
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Lee Binz, The HomeScholar, specializes in helping parents homeschool high school. Get Lee's Free Resource Guide, "The 5 Biggest Mistakes Parents Make Homeschooling High School." You can find her at www.HomeHighSchoolHelp.com
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"Lee's input enabled me to prepare a "Comprehensive High School Record" for my son which allowed me to present in a college-friendly format his uniqueness and his strengths, along with the details of the rigorous education he had received here at home. He was accepted into the college of his choice, and I received feedback from the academic dean and the admitting office that the content was exactly what they wanted to see for review purposes. I would not have known where to start without the specific and very encouraging help she gave."
~ Mary and Son, North Carolina