How to get a Head Start on College

Head Start on College

Ashton Pleasants saved time, money, and stress.  What more could you ask for?

“CLEP tests and Maranatha Online classes are clearly worth the time and money,” the Maranatha sophomore from Suffolk, VA, said. “I will graduate in three years instead of four. I saved just over $16,000. In addition, my first week of college was much less stressful, as I already knew the online system and some of my professors and fellow students.”

Pleasants is one of a growing number of students who have gotten a jump on their college education while still in high school. She enrolled in 18 credits of online classes and also took two College Level Examination Program (CLEP) tests for six more credits before setting foot on campus.

Let’s examine some of the options for accumulating college credit while still in high school.

Online Learning

Online learning, already a cost-effective option, is even more attractive when you consider the 50-percent scholarship for high school juniors and seniors who qualify.

Maranatha Online offered more than 100 undergraduate and graduate courses during the 2012-13 academic year, and its programs are constantly being expanded. More than 50 of those classes are at the freshman and sophomore levels, allowing high school students to get a big jump on their required courses before coming to campus.

Perhaps a student isn’t sure the Lord is leading them to Watertown. Maranatha’s regional accreditation allows its credits to transfer to nearly every college in the country. So, even students who don’t plan to attend Maranatha can pick up credits that will put them ahead at the college of their choice.

“Taking online classes is worth the effort, and I would encourage high school juniors and seniors to take as many online classes as possible,” Pleasants said.  For more information on Maranatha Online, go to

Dual Credits

Dual credit options have become attractive, particularly to those interested in online learning or those who live near a college that offers classes to high school students.

Many states allow students to earn both high school and college credit for the same course. Some will even help the College Head Startstudent pay for the class. Homeschooled students, including those under the supervision of a public or Christian school, may also find earning dual credit to be a possibility.

According to the Education Commission of the States, 46 states have established policies offering at least one dual enrollment option. In the other four, dual enrollment policies are determined by the local school districts or colleges. Check with your state department of education or local school district to see how dual credit is made available where you live.

CLEP Exams

The College Level Examination Program (CLEP) allows students to demonstrate their ability to complete college work by taking a timed multiplechoice exam. A passing score converts to college credit—at a significantly lower cost.

Maranatha students may accumulate 30 hours of CLEP credits, with no more than 12 in a single field.  There are 18 different courses that can be replaced by CLEP credits, all at the freshman and sophomore levels. CLEP gives new students a chance to finish their core requirements more quickly and get an early start on advanced courses and upperclass electives (the fun stuff!).

The financial aspect of CLEP is certainly a plus.  Each test costs $80, plus a fee charged by the test center (usually around $20). When compared with college tuition, this could translate into hundreds of dollars in savings for a three-hour course.

Advanced Placement Classes

Incoming Maranatha freshmen can also earn credit by enrolling in Advanced Placement courses and examinations while in high school—up to 40 credit hours, and up to 12 in one field. The courses are taken through the student’s high school, with examinations given at the end of the course to determine whether college credit will be granted.

Olivia Mueller (’12) earned her Applied Science/Pre-Med degree from Maranatha in three years. She came to college with 20 AP credits earned while in high school. Mueller estimated that she spent about $500 for the classes, but saved nearly $10,000.

“I would strongly recommend taking AP classes,” Mueller said. “They help prepare you emotionally, mentally, and academically for college. Even if you don’t take the test or score high enough to gain college credit, you still walk away with the experience of a college-level course. Then, when you take the course in college, it should be like a review or, at least, easier to understand.

“It’s a win-win situation.”