When I was in school, the last thing I wanted was to be in school.
I know, that sounds dramatically unstudious of me. I loved learning, but I often felt school took time away from the projects I was really passionate about.
As I neared the end of high school, I knew I wanted to earn my bachelor’s degree. I just didn’t like the idea of adding 4 years in a classroom to get it. Especially since—as a homeschooler—I’d successfully avoided the classroom for most of my life.
My local community college had an amazing dual credit program that I was interested in pursuing. What better way to save time on my college studies? Unfortunately, I didn’t have the wheels to get there regularly, and… did I mention the whole “successfully avoiding the classroom” thing?
So what was a young, car-less, classroom-averse high schooler like me to do?
The College Level Evaluation Program (CLEP) is an exam offered by The College Board (think SATs) that allowed me to earn college credit via single exams. Think of it like a final: by proving my overall understanding of the course material, I earned college credit.
The only transportation I needed was one trip to my local college on testing day. And I could study for the test my way, at my pace, on my timetable. I was sold.
One year later, I finished up my high school studies with 12 shiny credits in hand (that’s almost a whole semester in college years).
Upon hearing my unconventional method of earning dual credit, most of my friends responded with “I could never do that.” But that’s just not true.
We were all homeschooled. We were all accustomed to studying differently than most students. Why not transfer the unique flexibility and focus of homeschooling to our college studies?
Here are 5 reasons CLEP is—in my opinion—weirdly perfect for homeschoolers.
1. Homeschoolers are already self-paced learners
CLEPs are self-paced, self-directed study exams. They don’t involve traditional coursework, quizzes, and papers for completion. The grading process relies entirely on your performance on a single exam.
This is a breath of fresh air for independent learners because in your study time, anything goes.
There are zillions of great ways to study for CLEP, and you can choose the method that suits you best. But if you want to save some time searching, here are my two favorites:
REA guides. These are probably the most comprehensive study tools you’ll find for any given CLEP exam. Think of them as highly detailed notes from a college class. They’ll teach you everything you need to understand the course in a condensed yet still in-depth manner. The 3 practice tests included in the back of the book are also a very accurate measure of whether you’re ready to test. (My rule of thumb: if you pass a practice test by at least 70%, you’ll pass the CLEP.)
InstantCert. $20 a month will buy you access to this excellent fill-in-the-blank flashcard system. Starting with InstantCert can feel jarring and awkward (they’re not your typical flashcards). But uncomfortable as it was, I still found InstantCert be one of the most useful CLEP study tools. By acing these flashcards, I never failed an exam.
2. CLEPs aren’t too advanced for high schoolers
The material covered in CLEP exams is absolutely college-level material, and shouldn’t be seen as anything less. But that doesn’t mean you have to be a child prodigy to pass.
Lower-level college courses (those you’ll take in your first 2 years of college) aren’t much more complicated than your more advanced high school courses. Additionally, the CLEP testing process itself is much simpler than your average college final.
Due to the breadth of knowledge being tested, the exams are mostly multiple choice. As long as you’ve studied hard and have a clear understanding of the material, you’ll be fine on testing day.
3. CLEPs combine easily with high school coursework
I already mentioned that you can use virtually any study material to study for a CLEP. That includes your existing curriculum.
If you like the curriculum you have or just don’t want to change your pace, go ahead and study your courses the way you normally would. Once you’ve completed the high school version of your subject, use an REA guide to fill in any potential gaps and raise your understanding to college level before testing.
4. CLEPs are inexpensive and extremely flexible
Unlike college courses, you can schedule to take a CLEP any time just by calling your local college’s testing center.
And since these exams are so low fuss, they don’t cost much either. $85 for an exam plus $15-20 to pay for the administrator’s time, and you’ve earned yourself some awfully inexpensive credit. (Oh, did I mention that your materials won’t break the bank either? REA guides aren’t priced at a premium like college textbooks.)
5. CLEPs are widely accepted by colleges
According to The College Board, over 2,900 of colleges grant CLEP credit, making it one of the most highly transferable kinds of credit you can earn.
A word of warning though:
While these exams are highly transferable, you still don’t want to mess around with taking credit you don’t know will transfer. Fortunately, there are some simple solutions to this.
Option 1: know where you want to go to college. Colleges are usually very forward about which CLEP credits they accept and which subjects you can use toward your degree. If you know where you want to go to college, check their website to ensure you don’t take something that won’t transfer.
If you’re not sure where you want to go…
Option 2: work with an advisor through Unbound. Our Advisors will help you build a college plan that you can start now, while you’re still in high school. They’ll help you evaluate colleges and pick the best one for your goals. They’ll also be able to offer you more flexible dual credit options like CLEP. Click here to learn more.
CLEP testing opened even more doors for me than I expected. Not only did it provide an interesting challenge in high school, it made me excited for college. In fact, CLEP was such a great fit for me that once I graduated high school, I called on Unbound to help me put together a college plan built around taking as many CLEPs as I could.
If you’re a self-directed homeschooler who wants to get a head start on college without the rigid classroom schedule, take heart. There are options that jive with the way you like to learn. CLEP is just the tip of the iceberg.
If you’re interested in learning more about dual credit for homeschoolers, click here to download The Official Homeschooler’s Guide to Dual Credit. This free ebook will give you an in-depth look at various dual credit options available to you.
A former student counselor and Unbound student, Abigail is passionate about empowering others to achieve their goals. When she’s not dreaming with her friends, you can find her reading or singing Broadway songs. Loudly.Read more by Abigail