Once you’re enrolled in college, you can take classes whenever you want, including spring and winter breaks and during the summer. But you can also get a jump start on your college credits before you’ve even started your first traditional semester. There are some options for you in high school to earn college credit through dual-credit courses or taking standardized tests that, with high enough scores, will exempt you from some generals—but even if you didn’t do that your senior year, you still have a few options over the summer.
Take classes at a community college
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This works for existing and incoming students alike, as long as you do it right: You can take courses at a community college during the summer, then transfer the credits to your institution in the fall.
There are a few things to consider here. First, you actually have to get admitted to two schools, which is a little burdensome. Second, you have to make sure the credits from the community college will transfer and satisfy your institution’s requirements for the generals you take. Third, your transfer credits won’t factor into your GPA; they’ll only count as credits toward your degree, so if you get all As, don’t get your hopes up for a major boost to your average. Don’t slack off, either, though, because you’ll need high enough scores in the courses to secure the credits when it’s time to transfer.
This is a pretty common practice, so reach out to a local community college’s transfer department to ask about it. I did it back in 2011 and it’s become even more of a trend since then. It’s an easy and affordable way to knock out some generals, since a 100-or-so-level required class will largely be the same from institution to institution—it will just cost more and take longer if you do it at a four-year school.
The community college can be a helpful liaison with your university, too, but you also need to be in contact with them to make sure the classes you’re choosing will meet the needs of your program requirements.
Use an online program
Community colleges in your area are one option, but this is the digital age, baby, and there are online services designed to do this same thing. Study.com maintains a “college saver” program that promises its online courses are “easy to transfer” to your more traditional school. They have over 220 classes in your standard general subjects, from business (74 courses) to psychology (16) and science (34).
They partner with universities like the University of Arizona’s global campus, Saint Joseph’s College of Maine, and Thomas Edison State, among others, and can transfer credits to over 1,500 accredited colleges and universities.
It’s straightforward and transparent, too: You pay $235 per month, engage with short videos prepared in collaboration with professors, and take quizzes and proctored exams to earn your credits. Again, it’ll be on you to contact your school to make sure they accept courses recommended by the American Council on Education and/or the National College Credit Recommendation Service, which are the primary types of courses offered on Study.com. Using this service or a community college will save you money, but only if you’re taking classes your school will actually accept and not make you retake later on.