I have four children who have graduated from our home school, and three more to go. Over the years I have seen many different home schooling trends, and one that crops up frequently, and is very appealing to many home school families is the idea that home schoolers can get their college degree, or at least a few college course, out of the way while they are still in high school. And it is true, you can do this, but there are some things you need to be careful of before you waste a lot of time and money…
1. Some courses will not count towards your student’s major.
Course like Algebra and Trigonometry are expected to be taken in high school. Yes, they are offered by many colleges for those who need a refresher, but they may not count towards the major your student is pursuing. For example, if your child wishes to go into an engineering field, they will be expected to take Calculus their freshman year. It will not be necessary to have college credits in Algebra for this degree. Check to see what your child will need, and do not enroll them in courses that will not count towards their major, unless you are unable to teach it yourself. By paying for this course you may be throwing money away.
2. Some courses do not transfer to other colleges.
In the New Mexico state college system all courses transfer to all other colleges in the system, but the grades for those course do not. If you are looking to bolster your student’s GPA by taking courses elsewhere, this will not help. Further, many colleges will only except transfer credits for general education course (gen. eds.) and you must take most, if not all, the courses for your major at the college you plan to graduate from.
3. Some colleges do not recognize the accreditation of the college your student enrolled in.
Colleges do not have to accept courses from another college. Make sure the courses fully transfer to the college of your choice before you enroll.
4. Some colleges limit the amount of transfer credit they are willing to accept.
Your student may have 30 hours of college credit, but if the college only recognizes 15 of those hours, that is what they will receive credit for.
5. Some degrees are only recognized by certain organizations.
One of my friend’s children received her teaching degree from a Christian college. This degree was not accepted in the state they lived in, and was only good at Christian schools that recognized this college as having a valid program. This limited her daughter’s options for employment.
Another friend’s child received his degree in ministry at 18. He will be pursuing his masters and is hoping to become a pastor. This is good. Most pastoral search committees are only interested in your knowledge, and not where your degree came from. Unfortunately some Bible colleges are not recognized by other Bible colleges, and you may not qualify for their master’s program, or to be hired as a professor (even if you have obtained a PhD) if you do not have a degree from a college they approve of. Many colleges who allow a student to start college as a freshman in high school have a tendency to not be recognized by other colleges.
6. Having enough credits to make you a ‘junior’ does not mean you will graduate in two-years.
Every major has certain requirements that must be met before you graduate. Most courses taken in high school will not fulfill these requirements, even if the college accepts them for credit. Many students enter college having paid for a boatload of credits, only to find out that their courses only count as gen ed, saving them the equivalent of a semester’s worth of course work.
7. Most majors you can graduate with at 18 do not result in ‘real world’ jobs.
Challenging majors require challenging pre-requisites in high school. Most children beginning high school do not have advanced math and science courses under their belt and will therefore not succeed in these majors. Majors that do not require a lot of math, or science, or even advanced writing skills often do not have much of a market for employment.
8. Even if you have a degree, there may not be employment for an 18 year old in that field.
Police officers must be 21 to apply. Social workers, pastors, military officers etc are also people who are expected to be older. Medical, dental and law schools also dislike accepting students who are very young (though they will make exceptions for really high scorers on their placement exams). At 18 years old there are few people who will hire you. If your child is not planning on a masters or PhD in their field, early college may just result in a frustrating job search.
9. The reason many of us home school is to teach our values to our children.
Teens are just beginning to understand mature concepts. This is the time for them to explore their faith. By placing them full-time into a college environment they will be spending more time exploring the beliefs of their professors than they will learning those their parents’ believe in. While I do believe in exposing my children to many different ideas, I also believe in teaching them well what I believe to be right as a foundation for future learning. Depending on what college you choose, this may not occur.
Don’t get me wrong, there are advantages to obtaining a college degree early. Dual degrees are impressive. (I graduated with two under-graduate degrees and a minor before going for my masters.) But, they are also costly if you do them over the course of eight years. (Receiving a dual degree because you took the maximum number of credits each semester is different since colleges typically charge a flat fee for full time students who, when I attended could take 15-23 credits per semester.) An early masters or PhD, or dual PhDs is also not a bad idea, if your child can handle the course work.
So, if your student is truly a protégée, then go for it! Why hold them up in life? If you have the money to invest in their education, and do not feel you can teach more advanced high school courses in your home, your local college may be a better option than your local high school. But, if you and your children are like most of us, graduating early may only place them in an awkward position, and may cost you more in the long run than you planned to spend.
(If you do have questions, call the college’s admissions office. They are there to help!)