Undergrad Credits for FREE?

Updated on June 04, 2015
F.B. asks from Kew Gardens, NY
19 answers

Mamas & Papas-

When I was in high school, you could take AP (advanced placement classes), and certain other classes at accredited schools at the high school level for little or no cost and they would be accepted, at least by state university schools, usually towards core curriculum or general liberal arts credits, and sometimes even for degree requirements. I managed to walk into college with 21 credits to my name, that and some heavy credit loading meant that I was able to graduate in 3 years instead of 4, saving my folks some serious tuition, fees, room & board.

Can kids still do this type of thing? What about doing coursework via a community college, or online? Would that count? Who would you speak with to figure out if it is worthwhile- a high school guidance counselor, an admissions officer at a local state school, some online resource for a target university?

I'm not asking for me, but for a co-worker who has a bright high school aged daughter who has precious little planned for this summer.

F. B.

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answers from Albany on


Doubt it's free, but would still be less expensive.


I should mention all three of my kids' choices (RIT, Siena, Ithaca) accepted all of their AP credits, which were not free (roughly $100 for the class and another $100 for the test itself, 3 credits each), all of them sponsored by SUNYA. It's likely a CUNY credit would be more than that. But still less than what it will cost when she's matriculated.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Rochester on

It probably depends on the school district. The district I teach in now is the only district out of the 4-5 districts I've taught in that has had that option. You would need to contact the school district. A call to the district office could give you an answer.

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answers from San Francisco on

More and more universities are refusing to accepts AP credit or they are requiring that students get a 4 or 5 on the tests in order to get credit. It depends on where the student wants to attend university. (I run an honors program at our local community college and we only accept 4 and 5s for our English course, for example and some exams might be accepted by a community college, but not the university that the student wants to transfer to.
Our local community college allows concurrently enrolled students to attend classes for free, with some age limits on certain classes. The challenge is that these students have later registration dates which can make it hard for them to get a spot.
My son has opted out of a traditional high school experience and will be taking the vast majority of his course work at our community college. He will then have to choose to take the high school equivalence exam (not the GRE) and then apply to universities, or stay at the college at get an AA when he is about 18 and then transfer to university. This is actually a lot more common that you think and is a very good option for students who do not care for the whole high school experience and who are academically motivated and mature. Even if this girl's community college cost a bit, it is still cheaper that any university and with a bit of research you will be able to find a great professor.

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answers from San Antonio on

I teach two AP courses at the sophomore and senior level. With both courses, they are free, and then there is an exam students pay to take at the end of the course that they need to pass to receive college credit (different colleges accept different scores, so the students need to research what their colleges of choice accept in order to set their sights to achieve). There are also Dual Credit options, where the student is enrolled in a class (for example Dual Credit Ap US History) and the local community college at the same time. As long as the student maintains the requirements of the course, they will receive college credit for the class. The best option is to contact the counselor at the school where the student is attending, so they can see exactly what the options are for that particular student.

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answers from Boston on

As others have answered, I am hearing from friends with college-age students (my two oldest are 17 so we're in the thick of preparing them as well) that many colleges aren't waiving required credits earned on AP exams. Instead, the exams may exempt a student from a required course or bump them to the next level (so English 101 might not be required, or would be replaced with 201) but those 4 credits wouldn't come off of the tally needed to graduate. Which is a shame, really, as I entered college with 16 credits. I didn't accelerate my degree, but was able to fully complete two bachelor's degrees in 4 years, partly because of those credits.

Community college credits can transfer over, but there are limits regarding how many you can use and how valuable they are. I took my 4th "year" of French at a community college after freshman year so that I could cross my 4-year-language-proficiency requirement off the list and not spend my very expensive private university credits on something totally unrelated to my field. I have 2 friends whose children actually enrolled in community college their senior year of high school and are entering college with more than a year of credits already (due to AP exams as well). In both cases I believe that their CC tuition was absorbed by our school district because neither could be education in a traditional school setting due to illness or injury.

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answers from Austin on

Our community college offers "Dual Credit" classes that you take while you are in High School... instead of Junior and Senior HS English, for example, you take the courses (Composition I and II, and two specific literature courses) though the Community college, taught AT the high school in lieu of taking the Junior and Senior English. The student can also take Government, Economics, and possibly a couple of other courses. I think they could take a maximum of 2 dual credit courses each semester.

Most of the time, these courses do transfer to a typical State University, but many private Universities do not accept them.

My children did go this route. It does help some, but some people say that those freshman classes they are taking early are really a good way to ease into college life. My oldest also took AP Biology, and got a 4 on the exam, which gave her several credits for college.

The best thing to do is to check with the local community college and the High School counselors. They will know what is available in your area.

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answers from Dallas on

My daughter went through the AP program and did have college credits when she entered college.

It's not free though. You do have to pay about $100 ( that's what it cost us in 2012-2013) and to get credit you have to score well on the test. Daughter got 4's and 5's so she was eligible for the credit.

A lot of students also take dual courses at the local community college. Again, it's not free by any means... Maybe cheaper but not free, at least not in my area.

You do have to work with the counselor at both high school and college level to coordinate the credits.

Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

my kids did dual enrollment at the local community college. they were homeschooled, so we set it all up with the admissions folks at the CC.
ETA oh sorry, missed the main point of the question! no, wasn't free for us. we got a 50% reduction for the first 12 credits due to a program offered by the college, but other than that we paid the regular tuition rate.

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answers from Chicago on

My son is taking AP classes. They will apply at SOME schools and and just hepl him get in the door at others. If your coworker's daughter knows where she wants to go after she takes core somewhere else, she should check with that school to make sure things will transfer over. Some schools will apply full credit, and others only partial, while others will not accept at all. When I was in school, my first school was absorbed by another due to funding issues. I did not want to attend that school so I transferred. My credits transferred fine to the next school. But I then took classes at a less expensive state school and they did not transfer fully to the school I finally ended at a few years later. Some classes only transferred half credit. I did not have too many so I did not end up starting over.

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answers from Columbus on

My current understanding is that fewer and fewer colleges are giving credit for AP classes. If a student is able and willing, the better option is to take college courses through the HS. My son's HS offers quite a few college credit courses. There are many colleges locally, and the HS has professors from 3 of them come to the HS to teach the college level courses. My son is taking a summer class this Summer so that he can qualify for another college level course in the fall. The advisors/counselors have been extremely helpful in navigating all of this, I have had to do very little research because they've been so helpful! And yes, the school covers the cost of these classes

When I was in HS, I had friends who went 'up on the hill' (the local community college) for a few classes (paid for by the school,) and many of them had quite a few college courses under their belt upon graduation...but they had to provide their own transportation, which prevented a lot of students from taking advantage of the opportunity. Now that there are online course, maybe that is less of an issue now.

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answers from Wausau on

The high school here also has AP classes that the state universities will use for credit or placement. It depends on how well you do and I think there is a testing fee.

There are free classes available to students in grades 10 and up that are the same as those taught at the technical college and kids get full credit for those classes at the participating tech schools. Some credits can be earned in summer school too, online or in person.

For our school, all the info about that is printed in the Academic Guide. If your friend was thinking about summer school credits, it may be too late this year. Our summer registration closed a couple of weeks ago.

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answers from San Francisco on

Yes it's still possible and I would think that if this person's daughter is so bright she would be aware of it, as it's something the school counselors talk about from day one of high school.
ETA: the community college classes here in CA are not free, but most credits transfer to most state schools, again the guidance counselor has all this info.

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answers from Indianapolis on

It all depends on the school they are attending. My friends daughter just graduated from college in 4 years with a double major thanks to AP classes. She brought 18 credits with her. It is still done but I'm not sure if all schools have AP classes. Starting with the Dean or counselor is the best approach.

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answers from Minneapolis on

We have the option of doing PSEO (post secondary education opportunity). I don't know if this is a MN thing or an "everywhere" thing. Our kids can attend either full or part time at a college (can be 2 or 4 year, but must be accredited) instead of or at the same time as attending high school. There is no cost to the parents or students (although I wonder about books) for this program.

We chose not to do this because our nearest college because it is 1 hr away from our home. Our kids were/are heavily involved in sports, music, etc, plus work jobs. The timing wouldn't have worked out for them to get back in time each day for their after school activities. Plus, I was uncomfortable with them driving 100 miles a day as young drivers. Finally, I felt like I didn't want them to miss out on all the "senior fun" that last year of school. We were told (whether or not it is true) that we could not do summer classes at the college for free - only during the school year.

The best person to talk to is the high school guidance counselor. A good one always seems to know everything :)

Good luck to your friend!

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answers from Boca Raton on

I would google "dual enrollment" and the community college that is nearest to your co-worker's location.

My son already has 10 college credits, and he just finished his junior year (College Algebra, English Comp + lab, Trigonometry).

He wants to CLEP out of pre-calc so he can get going on Calc 1 in the fall (he's going into computer science or engineering so we know the math track that he needs to be in for all of the major Florida universities).

More about CLEP credits here: https://clep.collegeboard.org/

Our dual enrollment credits our completely "free" (well the county school district pays the tuition) as long as you are in high school or you are a legally registered home education student (my son).

We have to pay to take CLEP exams. Think it's $80, but imho it's money well spent when you consider the time and $$$ that class would cost in college.

If your co-worker's daughter has time this summer, she may want to start test prep for ACT or SAT. Plenty of online options there.

Good luck!

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answers from Pittsburgh on

You really need to talk to the specific college or university that the child wants to go to in the future.

I know the college I went to (and still volunteer at) will allow transfer in of credits, but not grades. What that means is that if the class is part of the liberal arts requirements, they will accept the transfer. But if it is a requirement for the major, it will not be accepted, because classes within the major all have to be passed with a grade of C or higher. (So, if she plans to be a biology major, she can't get credit for biology 101, but she might be able to get credit for history 101).

Again, this will probably differ by college/university.

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answers from San Francisco on

Community college credits are usually transferable (and not free), and AP classes in high school are often not transferable for college credit. Plus there's something like a $100 cost per class to take the AP test for each class, at least in CA.

I know some kids who cut out at least a year of college by taking community college classes in their junior and senior years. But once again, they are not free. Pretty cheap, though.

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answers from Reading on

Every high school in our area does it, and in fact, we have two high schools that have a 13th year of school (one is charter, one is STEM) and when you graduate with your high school diploma, you also have an associate's degree (one from a local college, the other from a local university). These programs are part of the public school and completely free.


answers from Minneapolis on

My daughter is taking AP classes through her high school. There is no charge for the courses, but I did pay $25 for her to take the tests (the school supplemented the rest of the fees). Your friend will need to check with the specific colleges on whether they will transfer or not.

In our district, AP courses are only available during the regular school year - not in the summer and they have already done all their registration for courses for next year. The school guidance counselor will be the person she will need to speak with.

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