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Freshman Year for Free with Modern States Education Alliance

Freshman Year for Free with Modern States Education Alliance
Modern States Education Alliance has a program to provide freshman year of college for free through free online CLEP courses and payment of $80 test fee. Modern States Education Alliance is a nonprofit dedicated to making college more accessible and ...
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Online Classes, Community College, AP, or CLEP?

Online Classes, Community College, AP, or CLEP?
Are you wondering just what to do next? There are so many options for your homeschooled child!

Choosing Between Online Classes, Community College, AP, and CLEP

I remember what it felt like to worry around in circles over these options! Choosing between community college, AP courses , CLEP exams, online classes, and other options depends on your child. I have recommended each option to different homeschoolers.

When you're making the decision for your family, take a step back and think about what your goals are for your child. If you need to save money on college more than anything, then consider CLEP or AP exams. If your family is most concerned about providing college in an environment that supports your world view, then you may want to consider online classes. Has your child fallen far behind in school and needs to quickly get foreign language or math or science credit? Then consider community college. 

To help you decide, it can help to think about your goals for college. Decide what college your child wants to go to. Contact admissions and ask about their policy on CLEP, AP, Community College, and online classes or distance learning. 

If all methods are acceptable to the college you want your child to attend, then consider their chosen college major. It's difficult to use distance learning for science and engineering classes and easier for liberal arts and introductory classes. Students considering graduate degrees (law and medicine for example) will need to find out if their application to law or medical school will be affected by their choices. In general, engineering degrees are not harmed by taking CLEP or AP exams, but they can be made slightly easier if you can eliminate the core freshman courses. Engineering classes may also be available to high school students through community college.  Students interested in law school or medical school may need to complete their undergraduate degree on a college campus, rather than online, particularly to go to a competitive university. In general, if a student wants to go to a highly selective or Ivy league school, going the traditional high school to college route is preferable.

Always check with your college choices. College policies vary significantly!

Please note: This post was originally published in August 2010 and has been revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

Do you need help creating a transcript colleges will love? You can get the Total Transcript Solution here!
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CLEP, Community College Credits, and Scholarships

CLEP, Community College Credits, and Scholarships
CLEP exams, Community College, and Scholarships can be confusing to sort out when homeschooling high school. Wouldn't it be nice if there was just one single source for information, so you could figure it all out easily? It seems like there is conflicting information out there!

I attended your classes at the recent Homeschool Conference in Cincinnati. Just noticed your post on facebook and read the entire article (ReduceCollege Expenses with CLEP and CollegePlus! ) You mentioned your sons completed one year of college via clepping and one year via the local CC (community college). And, you mentioned full-tuition scholarships. I was told at the  conference (can't remember if it was a speaker or a homeschooling mom) that if your child attends a CC, that eliminates your opportunity/possibility for a scholarship. This obviously isn't true--at least, it wasn't in your sons' cases.  Please clarify this for me--thanks!

Here is the big problem, universities are unique companies with their own policies; there isn't a single answer out there. Each college will handle things differently. Not all colleges have the same policies on accepting CLEP or community college credits for scholarships or credit. They may each decide whether or not to accept AP or CLEP tests and then decide if they will give credit, placement, or be used for outside  documentation only. Universities decide their policy on who gets scholarships as well; just those who demonstrate "need" or those who have superior test scores. These decisions are usually based on the bottom line; what will increase their ranking nationally, what is the best business decision for their company.

Meanwhile, their crazy and widely-varied policies can drive applicants CRAZY!! I would love to tell you that you can ALWAYS get scholarships  with CLEP or Community College courses, but that's not true. I would love to tell you that you will NEVER get scholarships if that were true (just to help with planning) but that's not true either!

If you know a college has one policy, it's tempting to assume ALL colleges have that policy. If only that were the case! To be honest, some colleges accept AP and some don't. Some accept CLEP and some don't. Some accept Community College and some don't. I'm sure that the speaker you heard honestly believed their experience would apply to all colleges, but it doesn't.

The university that my children went to had a unique policy.  They would allow 1 year by credit (CLEP or AP) and 1-2 years of community college. They would not allow more than two years of a combined experience and you had  to attend that university for a full 2 years in order to receive a degree from them. In my sons' situation, our CLEP and Community College credits all acted as outside documentation that our homeschool had been effective. They provided "data points" showing that my homeschool 4.0 was in fact accurate. It strengthened our overall college admission package, making us a better business investment for their scholarship money.

Your best plan is to check with your Number One college choice and find out their policy. If you don't have a first choice yet (unlikely for younger kids, I know!) then you may want to carefully read the policy on the four colleges where your child is most likely to apply.

I wish I could easily clarify the issue for you. The truth is that you'll just have to check with each individual university to see what policies they have.

Has your child received credit for CLEPs or community college courses, or did they help your child get scholarships? Please share!

Please note: This post was originally published in May 2010 and has been revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

For more information about marketing your child so they can compete for scholarships, you may want to check out my Getting the BIG Scholarships online class or Getting the BIG Scholarships DVD  For more information about Community College, you may want to read some stories about what community college is REALLY like.
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Homeschool College - Do Community Colleges Accept CLEP Credits?

Homeschool College - Do Community Colleges Accept CLEP Credits?
I received this message about CLEP credits from a homeschooling parent:

"In Florida, the state universities have a reciprocal policy with the community colleges if you complete your AA. So, we'll probably go that route and do his AA via CLEP and dual enrollment."

Earning an AA through CLEP credits and dual enrollment wasn't the route we took, but it may work for you. It turned out that our community college would not accept more than 2 CLEP credits, so even though the university DID accept more, the community college didn't. That meant we couldn't combine CLEP credits and dual enrollment to make an AA degree.

Instead, we carefully chose classes from the community college that were perfect matches for our university. In other words, some math courses transferred and some didn't, and we were careful to choose only classes that would transfer into the university for the degree. This also meant that my boys didn't start college with an AA degree. If you don't start college with an AA degree, there are certain prerequisite courses that have to be taken. My kids were required to take 6 prerequisite classes at the university instead of the 3 prerequisite classes that would have been required if they had an AA degree. The number of courses will vary with the university; I just wanted to give you an idea what it looked like for us.

If my kids had earned an AA degree from community college, they would have had to take classes that I didn't want them to, such as PE and diversity classes that had controversial content. I'm glad we didn't go that route. I had to be especially careful with my 15 year old starting college. We didn't want to expose him to too much adult content.

Do you have experience with CLEP credits? Was it easy to transfer them to your college or university? Please share!




Please note: This post was originally published in December 2007 and has been revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
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Considering CLEP Tests

Considering CLEP Tests

Considering CLEP Tests

This post contains affiliate links. If you click and buy I may make a few pennies, but not enough for a latte.

CLEP exams are college level tests that assume a student has learned naturally by reading a lot, going to museums, reading the paper, perhaps some hands-on learning. That's why CLEP is often a great fit for homeschoolers - it doesn't assume we learn in a classroom setting.  When homeschool parents sign up for a service to assist them with homeschooling college, the suggestion is often the CLEP test "Analyzing and Interpreting Literature" as the first test to take. But the Analyzing and Interpreting Literature is not a good choice for everyone. Sometimes that's the weakest subject for a child or that exam is not accepted for credit by the university you want to attend.

Consider your reasons for homeschooling college credit.
1. To achieve a degree by taking many exams that are accredited by a college.
2. To reduce the cost of college by taking a few exams for college credit.
3. To validate learning in a certain subjects, so colleges know you know your stuff.

If you want to achieve a degree from taking multiples tests for college credit, usually students will use an accrediting college outside their home state.  Often they will use Thomas Edison State College, but there are others that will do that as well.  When that is your goal, it doesn't matter what order you take the tests. They simply want to see a certain number of tests in different subjects, but the order of the subjects will not matter.  And often they will substitute tests within a subject. Thomas Edison, for example, suggests 10 CLEP test options for humanities, and Analyzing Literature is only one of those options.

If you want to reduce the cost of college, then it doesn't matter which test you take first, you just want to choose a CLEP exam that you can pass that will also be accepted by the college of your choice.  The problem, of course, is that high school kids often don't know what college they want to go to until they are a senior in high school. It can be frustrating to discover that not all college accept CLEP, and for those that do, not all colleges will accept all CLEP test.  To find out if your college will accept CLEP, search their website for "credit by examination" or "CLEP equivalency" and you may be able to find the information that you need. It's possible that half of colleges will not accept all CLEP exams for college credit, so you really need to do your research.

If you want to validate learning in a subject area, to prove academic rigor to a college, then it doesn't matter whether they accept CLEP for credit or not. Essentially, you are using your CLEP scores the way you would use an SAT Subject Test score, or ACT exam.  You hold up the test scores to the college and say "look here what I know!" You aren't hoping for college credit, you are hoping they see the student as a worthy applicant who is likely to be very successful at college level classes.  Indeed, what can be more convincing than showing them a college level test? They should be sure to know the student is ready for college learning if they can pass that CLEP of College Level Exam Program.

No matter your reasons for homeschooling college, the process may be the same.  Learn by homeschooling as usual.  When you are done with a subject, determine what CLEP your child will pass easily.  Find a CLEP Official Study Guide from a bookstore.  Look at the subjects that your child understands best. Have them take a sample test. If they pass the sample test, you can buy a study guide and study for that specific test. That way they will get the best possible score.

There is no harm in waiting until a child is older in high school to begin CLEP testing. Tests can be taken at any time, any day of the year. You can take as many tests in one year as you like. You can wait until a child has naturally learned a lot of history and then see which history exam is the best fit.  You can teach Latin for 3 or 4 years and then try the Latin exam to see if it fits.  You don't necessary needs tests all along the way of homeschooling. They are useful when you start applying for college, or when you plan to convert them into a college degree, but they aren't required prior to that.

Stress can also be an issue to consider. It's unusual for a child to face a college curriculum, or a college test without feeling some stress.  A certain amount of stress can be helpful, so children learn to deal with stress, and stressful situations, and testing in general.  On the other hand, you don't want to needlessly expose a child to stress about something, and then end up with a phobia of taking tests.  You don't want to ask them to take a test they aren't comfortable with.

The bottom line is that I never recommend giving a child a test they cannot pass.  I think it can hurt their future testing ability, and can cause problems with self-perception.  So pre-test at home, make sure they are comfortable with the material and the test format.  Only take a test for real once you know they can pass it.

Are you considering CLEP testing in your homeschool? Has your child experienced success with CLEP tests? Please share in the comments!


If you'd like more help  with earning college credit during high school, check out my kindle book, How to Homeschool College: Save Time, Reduce Stress, and eliminate debt.
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Recent Comments
Barbara Yoder
Looks like Ohio now has a CLEP for credit policy for 33 exam areas. Read More
Saturday, 26 May 2018 19:34
Lee Binz
That's great news, Barbara! Be aware that the policy will probably only apply to Ohio STATE colleges, so you still need to check t... Read More
Saturday, 26 May 2018 23:21
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Graduate Your Homeschooler with College Credit

Graduate Your Homeschooler with College Credit
In this video, I talk about how to help your homeschool student graduate high school with college credit.

For personal support join the Gold Care Club!

If you subscribe to my YouTube channel. You will be notified when I create new videos on homeschool high school topics!
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Earn College Credits while in High School

Earn College Credits while in High School
You can give high school credit for students who earn college credits, regardless of how old the student may be.  Of course, when I tell that to parents, half of them laugh and think, 'MY child getting college credits in high school?  HA!"  I know it's easy to be skeptical - I remember thinking that way myself!  But when kids really start to learn a subject they love, it's completely possible to earn college credits through using CLEP tests.

Recently Elise wrote to share her successes with CLEP.  Her 10th grader learned World History in a way that he enjoyed, and it made sense to him.   He was able to take and pass a CLEP exam in that subject.  Now he is a 10th grader with some college credits under his belt!  Here is the sweet note from Elise:
Hi, Lee!
I'm so excited, I just had to let you know that, thanks in part to you, my son (10th grader) passed the Western Civ I CLEP! First, you assured me in one our phone calls that Sonlight's Core 6 (World History part 1) would be fine to do with my 2 when they were in 7th and 9th with some Teaching Co. DVDs (which is something we enjoyed doing vs switching to a "High School level" course that he'd have to do alone).  Then, through reading your bookwatching your DVD, and reading your blog about all the advantages of the CLEP, I decided to try having my son take the CLEP when we were done.  He used a CLEP study book and a little InstaCert and got a 63 when 50 is passing and 56 qualified him for credit at the college he's thinking of going to!  Like you said, he's saving thousands of dollars by clepping out of that course, validating our homeschool grades, and I think I can count that World History course as honors, if I'm not mistaken.  Regardless, I'm ecstatic, and thank you so much for all you do! I wanted you to put it on your blog so others could hear how much you help!
Elise Knight

Don't think it will never happen to you.  Be open to the possibility and it may happen for you, too!   And yes, Elise, if it were me I would give him a class called "Honors" for his history class.  Great job!

Do you enjoy our monthly newsletter, The HomeScholar Record?  If so, we would love it if you would write a brief review here, so others could find it!  Thanks.
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High School Testing Help

High School Testing Help

Understanding the common high school tests can save you real money right now - saving thousands of dollars on college. In my online training resource, “High School Testing” I compare major high school tests, discusses general strategies & study tips, and shares how my sons homeschooled one year of college using CLEP exams.

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OpenCourseWare for Homeschoolers

OpenCourseWare for Homeschoolers
In the realm of online learning, “OpenCourseWare” is the new kid on the block, one worth checking into if you have a homeschool student who does well with virtual classes.  OpenCourseWare (OCW) includes coursework and materials shared freely with anyone via the Internet.

Universities such as MIT, UC Berkeley, Stanford, and Harvard, to name a few, all offer OCW, although there is no credit conferred for completion of any courses.

I think it’s wonderful that these courses are free. They are extremely helpful for kids that are ready for this kind of college learning, but a word of warning: sometimes homeschoolers will sign up for OCW and then find out that it’s hard.  It is college level material, and if you take it from a college like MIT, which is an extremely difficult school to get into, the material will be even harder!  However, if your student is ready, I think it’s great to take classes.

For transcript purposes, you can count each class as a high school credit. If you’re interested in getting college credit for the course, look into CLEP or AP or Dante’s subject area tests.   If you’re looking for OCW at the high school level, I suggest you look at Kahn Academy, since they have a lot of links to classes that are high school level.


What do you think of OpenCourseWare?

I am now the Seattle Homeschool Examiner.  You can read my homeschool articles here.
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CLEP, AP, or Community College?

CLEP, AP, or Community College?
When you are looking at using CLEP, AP, or Community College, you may wonder which one is best.  "Best" is not always easy to decipher.

I'll tell you the big truth about all of this:  it depends on the college your child will ultimately attend.  If you ask 10 different colleges, you might get 10 different answers.  Some very prestigious colleges feel the same way about AP exams and community college classes.  It's almost impossible to tell.

Jennifer wrote to me expressing great concern that CLEP exams would hurt high achieving students.  She worried that CLEP tests were too easy compared to AP.  Someone told her that a college looked negatively upon CLEP tests.

Each college is unique. In my business I talk to a lot of colleges.  I try to represent the views of many colleges as even-handedly as possible.  It's important to realize that the range of college preference and attitude varies dramatically - as much as parents homechool preferences from unschool to classical.  I'm trying to serve the entire homeschool community who may go to any of these colleges.  It's difficult to give absolute answers to questions that vary so much from student to student and college to college.  As with everything we homeschoolers do, it's the parents responsibility to determine from the colleges what they want to see.

No harm will come to your child for taking the CLEP.  It may or may not be beneficial, but it can't hurt.  You have the option of submitting scores or not submitting scores to colleges.  You can choose to include CLEP on the transcript or not include it.  Taking a CLEP test doesn't mean your child didn't learn something - it's not going to hurt anyone. There are many opinions on CLEP (good and bad) and many opinions of AP (good and bad).  Some colleges don't accept community college credits either.

All you can really do is to educate your child as best you can, and then get to know the colleges where he might apply.  Try to give each college what they want. So for example, if you wanted your child to attend that particular school, you would simply not submit CLEP scores to that college, and you would leave it off the transcript.  But if his number 2 school DID accept CLEP, you would send them the CLEP scores to show what your son could do.

That said, if you are thinking about the Ivy schools, your best bet is AP for testing.  Check to see if they value community college classes - some really encourage that, and others just hate community college classes.

With my gifted child, we decided NOT to send him away for college at a very young age.  The local colleges were very accepting of CLEP.  I waited until the summer before we applied, and had him take all the CLEPS he could pass at that time.  We didn't have CLEP accumulated over the years.  Gifted kids are.... complicated, with lots of moving parts.  It's not just what they are capable of in college, but how mature will they be, and when will they be ready for college, and should they leave home before they are 18, etc.  Very complicated stuff.  So for now, take it one day at a time.

Just remember the key concept:  educate your child to the best of your ability for right now.  When the time comes to apply to colleges, you'll be ready.


What's your story when it comes to college applications?
Learn how you can create homeschool records that win college admission and scholarships.

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The Great Courses: Honors, or Just High School Credit?

The Great Courses: Honors, or Just High School Credit?
Homeschoolers use lots of different resources, and one of the ones I’ve recommended in the past are The Great Courses.  With choices in science, mathematics, business and economics (just to name a few), many homeschoolers are utilizing these classes.  Parents have asked me whether the Great Courses should be considered AP Honor’s classes or high school level, but it really depends on how you utilize them.

Obviously, the high school courses they offer are high school level. There are two ways to think about how to put one of those courses on the transcript: one method is to count the number of hours that you spend listening to lectures.  For instance, if you combine a bunch of different classes on a history topic and you end up having 120-180 hours, then that would be your history class and you’d give your student one high school credit for history.

A second method is to determine how much your student actually learned from the course, measured by whether they can pass an AP or CLEP test. If they pass one of those tests, then you could call it an honor’s class. Indicating an AP course on a transcript is kind of frowned upon, because the letters “AP” have been copyrighted by the College Board and they do not like it when you put “AP Course” on a transcript.

The easiest way to reflect college-knowledge is to label a course an honor’s course, such as ‘Honor’s History’. If they’ve taken an AP test, then you can put that test score on the transcript, which would show their college-level learning.


What's your favorite homeschool curriculum resource?

When you are applying for colleges, you will need a great homeschool transcript.  The good news is you can “do-it-yourself” and save thousands.  Discover the Total Transcript Solution.
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Take CLEP when you are DONE

Take CLEP when you are DONE


It's helpful to take the CLEP test when you are "done" with a subject - the problem is knowing what "done" means.

Rachel asked, " I am wondering if it could make sense to take the CLEP on a subject right after the student has successfully completed it, rather than waiting until the last year of high school and taking several then.  Are there any disadvantages to this method (taking them as the subjects are "completed") that you can think of? Thanks!"

When you are done studying a subject at the end of a school year, then it makes sense to study and take the test as soon as possible after the subject is complete.

Other times a student will continue learning about a subject all the way through high school.  In that instance it makes sense to take the test close to the end of high school, when they are as knowledgeable as they are going to be in that area.

It's probably not helpful to take a subject test and then take another test in a more advanced topic of the same area.  In other words, taking multiple CLEP or AP exams in math, for example.


Subscribe to my YouTube channel.  You’ll  get notified when I create new videos on homeschool high school topics!
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Determining CLEP Credit

Determining CLEP Credit

For determining test-related CLEP credits, here are three big ideas to help:

1. Ask the university where you hope to attend and give 1 high school credit per class they equate to that CLEP.
2. Look at the "Sample CLEP Policy" from the CollegeBoard to estimate credits.  Each equivalent college class could be one high school credit:
3. Remember, it all depends on where  you end up, and the CLEP policy for that university.

Colleges each have their own policy about CLEP. Find out what your first choice college wants, and then GIVE them what they want to the best of your ability. In the meantime, when you homeschool independently, you can teach a class in your own way. You can evaluate in your own way.  You can teach the content of a CLEP exam, and then evaluate the success of your class with a CLEP exam and use the CLEP to determine high school credits.The outside documentation of the CLEP test can demonstrate that your child knows the material.

Learn how to translate all those great homeschool high school classes into the words and numbers that colleges will understand.  Get the Total Transcript Solution  
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More Competitive with CLEP?

More Competitive with CLEP?
What about using CLEP in high school?  Wendy asked these questions after she read my blog post about Capturing CLEP Credit on a Homeschool Transcript:

  • If a college doesn't accept CLEP courses as fulfillment of a college class, will they recognize it as fulfillment of the high school course?

  • And will this make the student's college application more competitive?

  • Will organizations like National Homeschool Honor Society and other "honor" societies make a student's college application more competitive?

Dear Wendy,

Colleges each have their own policy about CLEP and other things.  The best answer is to find out what YOUR colleges want, and then GIVE them what they want to the best of your ability.  However, CLEP is outside documentation of your homeschool, just like AP, SAT Subject Tests, SAT and ACT provide outside documentation.  Using CLEP as a way to document what they learn will provide additional weight to your transcript.  That doesn't mean a college will necessarily prefer your student over another, however.  When you are homeschooling independently, you can teach a class in your own way.  You can evaluate in your own way.  If you teach the content of a CLEP exam, and then evaluate the success of your class with a CLEP exam, it will certainly not be any LESS recognized as a homeschool class.  Instead, the outside documentation of the test can demonstrate that your child knows the material.

If you are applying to very competitive schools, find out what they want and give it to them.  Our first choice schools accepted CLEP, so we used that for our outside documentation.  Some other schools we applied to did not recognize CLEP in their admission policy, but it did improve their position for admission.

If you have a high school student who has taken the PSAT or SAT or ACT, you may get some offers to join an honor society. Some are legitimate and some are not.  Try to determine if the honor society is tied to some sort of actual “honor” like GPA or SAT scores.  Then look to see if it is a money-making organization or a charitable organization offering the award. A legitimate honor society may make a college application more competitive, but not necessarily any more than the GPA and SAT score required to receive the award.

Learn the SECRET to getting your student placed at the TOP of the stack for college admission consideration as well as one of those MASSIVE university scholarships.  Get the Comprehensive Record Solution!

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CLEP Results

CLEP Results
Dear Lee,

If your child takes and does NOT pass a CLEP exam, does the college board report that to colleges that the child applies to?




When your child takes the test, you can choose ahead of time to send the score or not send the score. If you send scores later, after you know they pass, it costs more money. Here’s my tips: be SURE they will pass first, by making sure they get a good score at home on a sample test. And if you feel insecure at all, don’t submit scores until you see them – it’s worth the extra money.

Homeschool records that open doors! Learn how to create records of your homeschool that will attract the attention of your dream college.
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