Posted in HS4CC

Too Many Credits?

Has anyone warned you that if your teen earns “too many credits” they won’t be considered a freshman? Or that the answer “varies by college?” If you believe either of those myths you’ll miss the most valuable credit-earning window available to your teen – during high school!

High School College Credits

During high school, students have access to reduced or free tuition. The eligibility varies by state for state-funded programs, but Homeschooling for College Credit parents may elect to self-pay for college credit at anytime, thus taking advantage of earning credit as soon as their teen is ready.

Many colleges charge high school students $0-$300 per college course, compared to the “after high school” price of $1,000-$5,000 per course. (Bachelor’s degrees require about 40 courses)

In states where tuition is free for high school, students see the list, you can quickly determine that students who take advantage of this low price in high school will reduce their college degree costs by thousands or tens of thousands of dollars.

The Myths

Myth #1: Too many credits

This myth comes from the mixing up of terms of a pre-enrolled student with that of the degree-seeking student. It is true that enrolled (degree-seeking) students earn their “rank”based on the number of college credit they’ve earned. During the first 30 credits while enrolled, they are given a “freshman” rank, the next 30 they are given a “sophomore” rank, etc. People use this terminology all the time, so it’s understandable that these terms have migrated over into discussions about admissions, but that error comes from not understanding IPEDS federal reporting.

Under IPEDS federal reporting, all college credit earned in high school is uncounted toward a student’s college application and a student’s federal financial aid. This technicality allows students to earn an unlimited number of college credits in high school and still apply as a first-time incoming freshman.

“High school students also enrolled in postsecondary courses for credit are not considered degree/certificate-seeking.” -Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System / Department of Education

Example: A student applies to their college with 60 college credits that were earned in high school through dual enrollment. They’ll apply a first-time incoming freshman, and upon matriculation (enrollment and becoming officially degree-seeking) their rank will bump to “junior” status. Renewable freshman scholarships are unaffected.

NOTE: if you change the scenario to a high school graduate who earned 60 credits through the local community college, they must apply to the university as a transfer applicant and will not be eligible for freshman scholarships though they may be eligible for transfer student scholarships.

Myth #2: Varies by college

This is an understandable myth because so many things usually do “vary by college” but in this one exacting situation, this is not the case. In this case, a “freshman” is defined federally because colleges are required to count and report their freshman each year on their IPEDS survey. In other words, the federal government, not the college, created the definition as they collect their data.

“Since 1993, completion of the IPEDS survey has been mandatory for all postsecondary institutions with a Program Participation Agreement (PPA) with the Office of Postsecondary Education (OPE), U.S. Department of Education: that is, institutions that participate in or are eligible to participate in any federal student financial assistance program authorized by Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended (20 USC 1094[a] [17]). For institutions not eligible to participate in Title IV programs, participation in IPEDS is voluntary.”

High School Students are Always Freshman Applicants

The nuances are important, but the big picture is easy to understand. Resourceful high school planning can save your family time and money while bringing the goalpost closer.


Executive Director of Homeschooling for College Credit