I recently interviewed a bunch of college financial aid advisors and they told me a bunch of secrets about college financial aid. One of the top secrets was the need for students to start early — starting to plan for college in high school. And it goes beyond financial aid.
One of the best ways to lower your college costs is to take as many college credits before you get to college as possible. This means working ahead in high school — and it’s totally possible.
Here’s how you can do it.
Taking Community College Courses in High School
Depending on where you go to school, you could start taking community college courses while you’re in high school — either as part of your high school curriculum or as extra classes during the summer. If you feel like you’re ready to take on a little extra workload to save time and money later, this could be a good bet for you.
If you know where you want to go to school (or have a basic idea), look at what classes are required. You could meet with your high school or college guidance counselor and see what you need to meet the general education requirement. Many schools require a lot of basic classes like art, history, math, English, and more, to just get your basic undergraduate degree. These are all classes that have the potential to be taken during the summer.
The second part is to see what classes your community college offers that could transfer to a four-year college. Also, you need to make sure that the timeline for a transfer works to be accepted. Some schools require you take a class within a certain timeframe (usually three years). If you take a class during your freshman to sophomore summer, it may not transfer to a university simply because of the time.
Other Options to Get College Credit
Beyond taking classes at a community college, you could also take advanced placement classes to gain college credit. Most high schools in the United States offer AP classes to their students, which have a standardized exam at the end.
If you score high enough on the test, most colleges and universities will count that score as a college class. For example, if you take the AP physics exam and score a four, chances are that your college will count that as taking a college-level physics class.
Furthermore, you can see if there are internships or other projects that you can tackle that can earn you college credit.
The Goal Is to Save Money
The goal is to save time because taking classes early will minimize the time you need to spend at college. You could easily start college with “sophomore standing” because you took so many extra classes. This could allow you to graduate in three years, saving one whole year of tuition. This can significantly increase the ROI on your college education.
However, both of these options require time in high school, and that could be tough if you’re playing sports or doing other activities. It could also be tough if you’re not prepared enough for the extra workload.
However, the time and cost savings could be worthwhile!
Did you ever take a community college class in high school?
Robert Farrington is America’s Millennial Money Expert® and America’s Student Loan Debt Expert™, and the founder of The College Investor, a personal finance site dedicated to helping millennials escape student loan debt to start investing and building wealth for the future. You can learn more about him here and here.
He regularly writes about investing, student loan debt, and general personal finance topics geared towards anyone wanting to earn more, get out of debt, and start building wealth for the future.
He has been quoted in major publications including the New York Times, Washington Post, Fox, ABC, NBC, and more. He is also a regular contributor to Forbes.