Should Teens Take College Classes in 11th Grade?

Is it a good idea for teens to take college classes in 11th grade?

Increasingly, school staff at both public and private high schools are saying yes, and are working to create new and better ways for students to do so—often at state expense, which can save parents thousands on eventual college costs.

Private education, especially, is benefitting.

Private high schools have the flexibility to create innovative in-school programs where students as young as 11th grade are able to take real college classes for real college credit during the school day, while still having the full, enriching high school experience.

Innovation like this works out well for parents, schools, and students. Parents find it easier to pay private school tuition when they know their future college costs are going to be lower, schools are able to brag that many of their students are graduating high school with as much as two years of college credit already completed, and students who are ready to achieve can dive into real college work as soon as soon as they’re ready for it, efficiently earning college credit and high school credit at the same time.

college classes in 11th grade

AP classes declining in popularity 

For years, high schools offered Advanced Placement (AP) classes in an effort to help high achieving students earn some college credit before age 18, but in recent years, concern about the AP program has caused its popularity to plummet. Fewer than 50% of students who take AP courses actually receive the promised college credit, and that makes AP the least dependable way to earn college credit in high school. (This Atlantic article goes so far as to tell parents bluntly, “AP classes are a scam” and “AP students are being suckered.”)

Students who take real college courses in high school enjoy 7 significant advantages:

1. They increase their chances of being admitted to the colleges they’d most like to attend, since college admissions committees see that they’ve already opted to take the toughest academic road in high school.

2. As high school seniors, they’re stronger candidates for the free money merit aid that colleges extend to highly qualified applicants they are especially hoping to attract.

3. When they get to college, they aren’t usually asked to sit through (or pay for!) expensive remedial classes that give them no actual college credit.

4. They walk onto their eventual college campuses with confidence. They know how to organize themselves to accomplish college-level work, because they’ve already had substantial experience with it.

5. They may be able to move an entire year (or two) sooner into the more advanced, more interesting college courses that apply most directly to their future career fields.

6. They will have the option of being able to take somewhat lighter class loads each semester they’re in college and still graduate in four years or less. They’ll still qualify as full-time students, but they won’t need to pack every semester tightly with classes in order to earn all the credits necessary to graduate on time. They’ll end up with more time each semester to work on their more advanced classes, and they’ll also have more time available for the committed volunteering and interning in their career field that is so important to their future career success.

7. They typically save massive amounts of money on college costs.

As I’ve written before—with a little specialized academic support, highly motivated high school students can both succeed at college classes in 11th and 12th grade, and, at the same time, still have “the full high school experience.”

“But… will college courses taken in high school transfer?”

The majority of the time, real college courses will transfer to the student’s future undergraduate institution. And if they don’t for some reason? The student will still have enjoyed a rigorous, enriching academic experience during 11th and 12th grades, and that will give him or her a strong foundation on which to build later.

I provide additional important information on this subject in Chapters 9, 12, 14, 16, and 17 of my book:

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You can see why financial advising professionals love LAUNCHhere.

You can see the top 9 questions parents are asking me about LAUNCHhere.

Read just one chapter of LAUNCH every 1–3 months while your child’s in middle school and high school, and you’ll know every viable strategy for debt-free college at exactly the right time to implement it.

And if your child’s already well past middle school? That’s OK; you can run to catch up. But the process of getting your kids through college debt-free goes more smoothly the earlier you start it—especially if you’re not planning to save up any money to pay for college.

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What about you?

What strategies have you found for earning inexpensive college credit that actually transfers? Did you or your child take college classes in high school? How did that go? Comment below or LIKE Jeannie Burlowski Author on Facebook, find this post on that page, and let’s talk about it there.

Who is Jeannie Burlowski?

Jeannie is a full-time academic strategist, podcast host, and sought-after speaker for students ages 12–26 and their parents and grandparents. Her writing, speaking, and podcasting help parents set their kids up to graduate college debt-free and move directly into careers they excel at and love. Her work has been featured in publications such as The Huffington Post, USA Today, Parents Magazineand US News and World Report, and on CBS News.

Jeannie also helps students apply to law, medical, business, and grad school at her website You can follow her on Twitter @JBurlowski.