College can be a wonderful period of time in your life. You will forge friendships that will last a lifetime, engage in activities that you will remember fondly and learn more about yourself than at any previous time in your life. It can also be a drag getting through basic level (101) classes as you eagerly anticipate the challenge of higher level courses within your field of study – not to mention the thought of four years’ time in the pursuit!
How can you shorten the duration? Here are three methods that warrant your investigation!
The College-Level Examination Program (https://clep.collegeboard.org) was founded in 1900 to assist students in their academic journey. They administer the SAT and other educational programs. Credits earned through the CLEP program are accepted at 2,900 institutions and provide college credit based on examinations passed.
Per the website:
“The College-Level Examination Program® (CLEP) helps you receive college credit for what you already know, for a fraction of the cost of a college course. Developed by the College Board, CLEP is the most widely accepted credit-by-examination program, available at more than 2,900 colleges and universities. Pass any of the 33 CLEP exams and achieve your college and career goals.”
Available exams include American History, Western Culture, Psychology, Economics and Social Sciences. Exams cost $80 each which will reduce your costs dramatically.
CLEP is ideal for home-schooled students as well as traditional high school students; but that is not the limit for enrollees. Continuing education students and members of the military are encouraged to use the program in their educational experience as well!
There is a wealth of information online including a school search feature and preparation helps for the student. CLEP is an easy way to get ahead of schedule and shorten the time between you and your degree.
Advanced Placement courses (AP)
Simply stated, Advanced Placement (AP) courses are college courses offered in high school. The material covered in high school AP courses represent what is presented in most introductory courses in college. At the end of the semester, enrolled students take the AP Exam administered by the College Board (it is important to note that a student must be enrolled at the beginning of the semester in order to sit for the AP Exam).
Passing the AP Exam can not only earn college credit (check with the college of your choice to confirm this) but by-pass the entry level courses and skip ahead to the advanced level courses once they matriculate.
Available AP Exams include Art History, Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science, Literature/Composition, Economics, Physics, Psychology, US Government & Politics and US History (check with your high school to confirm which courses are offered). The cost of $91 per exam is far less than the cost of a semester-long class in college.
Summer classes (even pre-freshman year)
After finishing 12 years of public education, do you want to jump right into a Summer Session at college? If you are serious about your education and want to complete your bachelor’s degree sooner than your peers – YES!
Nearly all colleges offer a summer session (or 2) for students to catch up on lost credit hours or enhance their studies within their major. Many will even permit a matriculating freshman to take introductory courses (as long as they are offered) before the traditional Fall semester.
The benefits of attending a Summer Session are strong:
You get to become familiar with the campus before the mad rush of freshmen (who will get lost and need your help).
You will learn exactly what is involved with college-level coursework with fewer distractions (the social scene is more subdued over the summer).
For all students (above freshmen):
You can dig in and focus over a shorter period of time (typically 8 weeks, although there are “mini-mesters” that cover an entire course in 2-4 weeks).
You can explore additional courses within and outside of your major.
If you still choose to take the full term to earn your degree, you can lighten your load during the traditional semesters and either focus more of your attention to your (fewer) classes or work part-time with less impact to your schedule.
To be fair, there are some downsides, too:
There is a risk of burnout – especially if you are not familiar with a year-round school schedule.
There is additional cost for these sessions (albeit usually reduced, they are considered additional courses and billed accordingly).
There is the risk of non-transferability of credits if the summer session is taken at another school.
To sum up, there are options to consider in order to move forward in your college studies ahead of the traditional schedule. Habits developed during this time (aggressively pursuing a goal) will benefit you in the long run. Employers look for the “go-getter” when considering applicants. Any advantage is worthwhile; advantages that are truly ‘win-win’ are even more valuable!