One of the scary things about homeschooling is entering new phases and doing things you’ve never done before, especially if you’re the “trailblazers” in your group. Like, say, homeschool high school dual credit.
Though we personally know a few homeschoolers with kids older than ours, most of my kids’ homeschooling friends are their ages and younger. So we don’t have a friend who “just did this last year” and can tell us what to expect.
But one of good things about homeschooling is that we aren’t doing this alone! There are those who HAVE gone before us, done this before, and have written about it on the internet. And because homeschooling is becoming more common, and people have done this, the community college is familiar with homeschoolers signing up for dual credit courses in high school. I was blessed, too, to have a couple of other friends also signing their kids up for dual credit courses this semester, so we were able to figure stuff out together, and help each other out along the way. That’s awesome. =)
Because we have just gone through this process, and learned a lot along the way, I thought I’d share some things that we learned while doing this. Because as I said, we aren’t doing this alone! So let me help you.
Homeschool High School With Dual Credit College Courses, Q&A
What is a dual credit course?
A dual credit course is a course that counts for both the high school transcript and the college transcript. One course, and it counts twice. Many high schools are offering more and more dual credit classes to their students these days, but when I was in high school I took only just one. The high school and the college have worked together to set up the course so that it counts for both. For a homeschooled student though, you would enroll through the community college directly, as a dual credit student.
How much does it cost?
To homeschool high school dual credit will cost basically the same as the normal college class, and it can be a bit pricey! This is one reason we are doing this through the nearest community college, and not the nearest university. Since you are signing up for a college class at a college campus, you are also paying all of the student fees that all of the others students are paying as well.
Catie’s four-hour course ended up at $433 dollars, and almost half of that was fees. If she added a second course, she wouldn’t pay quite as much in fees, but it still costs roughly $100 per hour at this junior college. Fortunately, they have payment plans. More on that in a minute.
Why would we want to take a dual credit course?
I know what you’re thinking, because I was thinking the same thing. “Why in the world would I want to spend that much on a class? I can buy her high school curriculum for so much cheaper.” Yes. You can. I just keep telling myself that she would pay for that college course at some point anyway.
If we didn’t the $400 now, we’d spend it a year from now, or two years from now. And if I bought the high school curriculum, too, then I’d spend money on both. By taking this dual credit course, I’m not spending money on the high school equivalent, I’m spending that college money now, and when she graduates high school, she’ll have a chunk of college courses under her belt that she doesn’t have to take and pay for at that point.
But graduating high school with college credits isn’t the only benefit.. it might not even be the biggest benefit. By taking dual credit courses now, my daughter is “transitioning” from high school to college, rather than just diving in with both feet a couple of years from now. She’s learning how to be even more independent, keep up with a fast-paced college-level course, self-manage her time, and be “on her own” for a few hours a day while on campus. Having multiple dual credit course experiences before she even graduates high school will just give her more confidence, strength, and independence when finally does go off to college.
Couldn’t we take a dual credit course through the local high school?
Honestly, I don’t know, but you might be able to do this? The same question had occurred to me, because I’ve read about public high schools allowing homeschool students to participate in things like sports and band. They might allow you to take the dual credit course with them. I didn’t want to pursue it, so I didn’t ask, but if that’s something you’d like to do, it never hurts to ask! If they let you, it might be cheaper and closer.
How do we get started?
Start by checking out the website for your nearby community college. I found a dual credit enrollment section on their site, with a step-by-step list of what to fill out, do, or bring. Printing the list off and progressing through it step by step was pretty straightforward.
Some of the things we needed:
Application: One of the things you should find on their website is the dual credit application and how to complete it. Because we’re in Texas, and our college asked for it, we also needed to start an application at www.ApplyTexas.com. So just be aware that you may need to do this also, and that if you do, the Apply Texas site will also give you a checklist of things to do (but not all of which will apply for a dual credit course.)
High School Transcript: You will undoubtedly need a high school transcript, incomplete of course, for your child’s freshman and sophomore years. Using an online transcript creator can help you just plug in the courses and print it out.
Proof of Meningitis Vaccine (or Waiver): One thing I didn’t know when starting this process was that Texas has passed a law requiring incoming college students under the age of 22 to have been vaccinated for Bacterial Meningitis. This applies to dual credit students as well, if they are taking classes on campus (but not if only taking classes online.) You will need one of the following: proof of vaccination, a signed affidavit from the doctor stating that vaccination would be injurious to the health of the student, or a notarized exemption form (available public junior colleges only.)
Test Scores: Your community college will want to see some test scores to show that your child is ready for college level work. It’s likely that at this point, your child doesn’t have SAT or ACT scores, but that’s okay, our kids didn’t either. Our college has an assessment test that students must take to show readiness if they aren’t exempted by an SAT or ACT score, and I assume that’s the case at most (if not all) community colleges. Here in Texas they use the TSI Assessment, an adaptive assessment test with four parts: reading, writing, essay, and math. Prepare for the TSI by browsing the page at CollegeBoard.org, using the practice web-app, taking TSI practice tests, and reading the short pdf about interpreting your TSI score. There are also an assortment of TSI study guides and flash cards available on Amazon.
We were blessed that everyone we spoke with and dealt with throughout the process was very kind, ready to answer our questions, and help us through the process. We did learn (us three homeschool moms working on this,) that it was very helpful to notify each staff person in the process that we were both homeschooled and only seeking dual credit enrollment. This saved time and confusion in several instances (and lost time and created confusion by not doing so, in a couple of instances.) In any case, it wouldn’t hurt to state that up front each time you talk to the college staff.
What about financial aid, scholarships, grants, and payment plans?
That IS the question isn’t it? I don’t have all the answers on this yet. I don’t know if you can apply for grants with dual credit enrollment. I *think* you can apply scholarships toward the dual credit college classes. I’ll be researching more about grants and scholarships in the coming months. I do know that you can’t even qualify for student loans unless you are enrolled a minimum of six hours, and I think you can apply even if the courses are dual credit, as long as you have the minimum hours. Honestly, I didn’t even try because Catie is only taking one course, and I don’t want to start racking up student debt for her right now.
Here’s what I DO know: our college offers payment plans, and I think most community colleges do. We registered late enough that we were only able to break the tuition up into a 25% downpayment and three additional monthly payments, but if we had registered early, we could have had an extra two months to pay it off, in smaller portions. So check with your college early, plan ahead, and you can pay it off before the semester is over, in affordable payments, without creating debt.
Homeschool High School With College Courses
I have to say that initially Catie was a little apprehensive about taking a dual credit course at the college. But with a week of classes in the books now, she’s feeling completely up to the task. Once she realized that she could even complete a two-year degree before graduation, if she works hard enough, she got really excited. Of course, that may end up being cost prohibitive, but it’s a good goal to have.
I’m not only proud of my daughter, but her two friends as well. If you ever worry about whether homeschooling will be sufficient preparation for college, let this serve to encourage you. Three different 16 year old homeschoolers, with different strengths and weaknesses, with three very different homeschool moms and styles, all accepted into the dual credit program at the community college.
You CAN homeschool high school. You CAN get them into college. You can do this whole “homeschool high school dual credit” thing.
Image Credit: Public Domain