Earn college credit in high school

There are ways to earn college credit while you’re in high school – advanced learning programs and exams or dual enrollment programs.

If you are a student who is up for an academic challenge, these are great ways to save both time and money before you enroll in college. There are several ways to earn credit; some of the most common options follow. 

Credit by exam options

There are several options to earn college credit if you score high enough on specific exams designed to measure your understanding of material and concepts covered in some college courses. These options rely on you taking certain classes in high school.

Advanced Placement (AP)

By taking AP courses and exams in high school, you have the opportunity to earn college credit, advanced placement or both. Learn more here.

What to expect

AP classes are like taking a first-year course at the college level. You will study a subject in depth, more so than you would in a regular class, and you'll be challenged. At the end of the school year, you'll take an AP exam and if you score 3 or higher you'll receive credit that may allow you to skip a college class, earn credit toward your degree or be placed in advanced classes in college.

Why you should consider it

If you score 3 or higher on your AP exam, you’ll save time and money, and get a jump start on college classes. If you score 1 or 2, you won’t get the college credit; however, a recent study shows that AP students had a significantly higher college outcome than students who didn't take the classes.

What to do next

Connect with your high school counselor or review your school’s course offerings to know what is available and then determine if this is the right option for you. Learn about AP test fee waivers for low-income students.

College-Level Examination Program (CLEP)​

CLEP exams can be taken before or during enrollment at any of Arizona’s three public universities. There are more than 30 exams offered on a variety of subjects including foreign languages, math, history, sciences and English. Each university has their own policies regarding CLEP tests, so be sure to research your options. Learn more here.

What to expect

CLEP exams are based on what you will learn in your first two years of college. The majority have 50-150 multiple choice questions. Some tests have written sections, and students usually have 90 minutes to two hours to complete the test. CLEP exams cost about $90 each.

Why you should consider it

You can save both time and money by reducing the number of courses you need to take in college. Additionally, CLEP exams provide flexibility as these can be taken at any time, allowing you to study and prepare at your own pace.

What to do next

Browse through the different CLEP exams accepted at the university you want to attend and see if there is a subject where you excel. Each university will outline their criteria for specific classes that can be replaced by credit earned through CLEP, so be sure to understand your options.

International Baccalaureate® (IB) ​

The International Baccalaureate program offers students ages 16 to 19 a two-year, pre-university Diploma Program. Certain IB exams, depending on the level of the exam and the grade received, are accepted for credit at Arizona’s three public universities. Learn more here.

What to expect

The International Baccalaureate Diploma Program is an intense two-year program designed to prepare students for higher education through critical thinking and independent learning.

Why you should consider it

The program will help to prepare you for college-level academic demands. It is credited for helping students grow academically as well as personally.

What to do next

Meet with your advisor to discuss the specific requirements, expectations and opportunities associated with the program, as well as the opportunities for earning credit in college through IB exams.

Credit through dual enrollment​

Dual enrollment is an opportunity  to take college-level courses in high school. By successfully completing these classes, you’ll earn credit for both high school and college. Learn more here

What to expect

Dual enrollment courses are more challenging than high school courses as the classes are meant to mirror the academic rigor of college. You'll also be expected to take more initiative when it comes to learning.

Why you should consider it

Beyond potentially earning college credit and getting ahead, you'll be exposed to college course expectations, workload and classroom dynamics which can help prepare you for the transition to college.

What to do next

Connect with your high school counselor to find out if dual enrollment courses are offered at your high school. If they are, ask about available classes and if you will need to travel to another campus for the course or if you can attend from your campus.

Common questions about how to earn college credit in high school

What is the difference between honors classes and AP classes?

While both of these options offer challenges in the classroom, honors classes provide a deeper understanding of a specific subject, but do not earn college credit. These classes offer an opportunity to gain comprehensive knowledge and delve into subject matter at a more advanced level.

Am I able to earn college credit if I am homeschooled?

Homeschooled students can earn college credit through methods like AP exams, CLEP tests, dual enrollment and online courses. College policies may vary, so research institutions and state regulations for guidance. Demonstrating academic readiness is crucial.

How many college credits can I earn in high school?

The number of college credits you can earn in high school varies widely based on factors like the courses you take, your school's offerings and college policies. Some students earn a few credits, while others may complete a significant portion of their degree. It depends on your individual circumstances and educational choices.

Scroll to Top
Skip to content