Minnesota students have a wide variety of ways to earn credit toward their future education while they are still in high school. Credits can be earned as traditional college credits, credit toward a technical-vocational program, or as an industry certification that can be used in the workplace. Many of the options listed below offer a way for students to earn credits by taking college-level courses on the high school campus or on a local college or technical school campus. Another option involves taking subject-area tests to demonstrate competence and learning in a subject area.
Each of these options gives students the chance to earn college or other postsecondary credit, gain industry-accepted certification, save time and money, and participate in more challenging coursework-all while earning their high school diplomas. Talk to your child's counselor and teachers about which opportunities listed below would be available and appropriate for your children.
Advanced Placement (AP) classes can be an important part of a student's college preparation plan. Rigorous AP courses are offered in many high schools throughout Minnesota. The College Board, a non-profit organization which has run the AP program since 1955, develops and maintains college-level courses in various subject areas. In addition, it provides training for AP teachers, supports universities as they define their policies regarding AP grades, and develops and coordinates the administration of annual AP examinations. These activities are funded through fees charged to students taking AP exams.
The College Board allows any student to take the examination without participating in the course, so home-schooled students and students from schools that do not offer AP courses have an equal opportunity to take the examination. Many Minnesota colleges offer credit to students who pass AP subject exams with at least a 3, on a scale of 1-5, but not all. Students should check the catalog on the Minnesota Department of Education Website or contact the admissions office of the postsecondary institution they wish to attend for their AP credit policy.
The International Baccalaureate Diploma Program (DP) is a demanding pre-university course of study that leads to examinations in various subjects. These examinations, in addition to being part of a rigorous preparation for college, may qualify the participants for academic credits at the college level. The DP is designed for highly motivated secondary school students aged 16 to 19. The program is a comprehensive two-year international curriculum, which offers 157 exams in 51 disciplines.
Students who participate in the full Diploma Program are required to study and take examinations in six academic subjects. At least three (and not more than four) of the six subjects are taken at the higher level, the others at standard level. Students who are not Diploma candidates can choose to take individual International Baccalaureate (IB) courses and subsequent exams. By July 1 of each year, the IB coordinators in each high school record student exam results with the IB Organization and students may request a transcript be sent to one institution.
Minnesota state law requires Minnesota state colleges grant credit to students that achieve a score of 4 or more on IB exams; however, each school determines what and how credit is awarded. Because of the wide range of practice by the colleges, it is recommended students talk with the IB coordinator in their high school as well as with the admissions office at the college of their choice.
Postsecondary Enrollment Options (PSEO) offers high school juniors in the top one-third of their class and seniors in the top half of their class the opportunity to take courses at eligible postsecondary institutions at no cost to the student. Students may be in public, nonpublic* or home schools. In addition to class rank, the student must meet the admissions requirements of the postsecondary institution. They do not pay for tuition, fees or books.
PSEO allows students to take college courses on a college campus, either full or part-time. They earn high school credit for the courses they take and may also transfer their completed PSEO coursework as college credits. All Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) accept PSEO credits; check with a high school counselor for credit policies for other postsecondary institutions, including the University of Minnesota. There are a few courses that cannot be taken as PSEO. Check with the high school counselor or the admissions office at the college of your choice for more information.
PSEO is best suited to highly motivated students. The high school student is treated the same as other college students while taking PSEO courses; oftentimes, the instructors are not aware of the students PSEO status. Therefore, only students who are willing and able to complete college-level work on an independent basis should consider this option. The rewards for students who take this option include up to two years of credit toward their college or other postsecondary education. This saves time and money and often allows the student to focus on additional courses in their area of interest after high school or to complete their degree plan in less time.
*Nonpublic schools are not required to follow all sections of the PSEO law. Students and families attending nonpublic schools are encouraged to discuss the school's PSEO policy with a counselor or program advisor well in advance of participation in this program.
Concurrent Enrollment opportunities are available at high schools through local colleges. Students take college courses at the high school and receive college credit through the sponsoring college. The courses are taught by high school teachers who have been trained and approved as college-level instructors to provide the same content, homework and tests given at the college for the same course. Concurrent enrollment opportunities vary widely among school districts and participating colleges. Check with a high school counselor for availability at your school.
The College-Level Examination Program (CLEP) is a College Board program that allows students to earn college credit by demonstrating their mastery of college-level material in introductory subjects. CLEP exams do not relate to a specifically designed college-level course taught in high school. Rather, CLEP exams test mastery of college-level materials acquired in a variety of ways, such as through general academic instruction, significant independent study or extracurricular work. There are 34 subject area tests for students to choose from. Study materials including practice exams are available from the Minnesota Department of Education. Postsecondary institutions vary on the number and type of CLEP exam credits they accept. Contact the admissions office of the college of your choice for their policy.