3 Ways to Jumpstart Your College Career in High School

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When you’re in high school people tell you to think ahead. Counselors and teachers are always reminding you that this year is important for your future. It’s hard to believe them, but they’re right.

College is just around the corner, and as easy as it is to ignore that fact, you shouldn’t. Take their advice and think ahead. Depending on how much time you have, there can be opportunities to get a head start on college now. You have the option to enter your freshman year with a few units under your belt. Colleges accept credit from different programs. It’s worth looking into.

If you’re a high school sophomore or junior, now is a good time to start thinking about college. I’m not saying you need to decide where you want to go or even what you want to study. What I am saying is that it’s good to start accumulating some college credits. College classes can be expensive, and it’s helpful to make a dent in the costs when possible. Trust me. Here are 3 ways to get started:

1. AP Courses

Myth: AP Courses are only for smart people. Reality: AP Courses are a great opportunity. You may think that taking an especially hard U.S. History course doesn’t fit with your schedule. I’m urging you; take advantage of the AP courses offered by your high school. While AP courses don’t always earn you credit, they do earn you Advanced Placement. Some colleges offer both, but either way it’s still worth the time and effort. All year your teachers will prepare you for the AP exam. Depending on your score and depending on your college, you will either be able to use that credit towards your degree, or you will be able to skip out on some gen-ed courses and get to the good stuff. It’s a win-win.

2. Community College & Early Start

Community College programs and Early Start programs take AP classes a step further. AP courses let you use the time you’d already be spending in the classroom to get ahead. Community College and Early Start programs require you to use your own time. It takes effort, time management and determination. Find programs in your area, or even an online program to get ahead, and go for it. Summer is a great time for it! Even though it may seem like a drag, I promise, the money you save will be worth it. I knew a guy who graduated in three years because of his participation in a program offered at his local community college. He’s in three fourths as much debt as me! It takes effort on your part, and it’s taking extra classes on top of your already full schedule, but heading into college with a semester—or even an entire year completed—is so worth it.


CLEP—the College Level Examination program—takes less effort and time than the previous two. It costs money to take the exam, but much less than it would cost to take the class. It is a credit-by-examination program accepted at 2,900 colleges and universities. It’s important to check to make sure your college is accepting the credit. If they are, take the test! There are 33 exams from 5 subjects. Look through the list and see if any are subjects you excel in. The exam costs $80.00, and there are prep books for sale as well. Prep books will help you remember those facts about U.S. History that are buried somewhere in that brain of yours. Once again, saving money and getting ahead before you’ve even started—it’s worth the time and effort!

College is expensive, which is why these programs and opportunities exist. Consider these tips a coupon book for College. Clip off some savings here and there, and next thing you know you will have saved thousands. Think about what time you have to give, and then give it. It’s worth looking into. Even just taking one or two AP courses in high school will make a difference. Take a class or two online. Sign up for the CLEP. As someone who did very little to make a dent in the cost of her education, you could learn from my mistakes. Student Loans and Debt may be foreign words to you now, but they won’t always be.

Do your best now, and thank me later!

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Paige Dinneny is a recent graduate of Biola University. Born and raised in Southern California, she currently lives in Long Beach and is now pursuing her Masters of Fine Arts in Fiction at Cal State Long Beach. Her days are filled with many jobs including social media marketing, retail and this! She spends her free time writing, watching the Game Show Network and going to concerts.