Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the Fall 2011 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the trade magazine for homeschool families. Read the magazine free at www.TOSMagazine.com or read it on the go and download the free apps at www.TOSApps.com to read the magazine on your mobile devices.

Local technical and state colleges work independently of, and often in conjunction with, area high schools to provide dual-credit programs for juniors and seniors. The programs allow students to earn high school and college credits simultaneously, saving money and giving students the feel of real college classes. Homeschoolers are welcome to participate in such programs. Dual-credit programs are great for busy homeschoolers as classes are offered both in local high schools and on local college campuses, thus offering students and parents flexibility with which to coordinate additional classes or work responsibilities.

Homeschool students have the opportunity to become familiar with college class work in a small group setting, usually ten to thirty students to a class. They listen to lectures, take notes, do lab work, and take class tests. Being college-ready is important for homeschoolers. By taking dual courses, homeschool students may successfully avoid a long adjustment period during their first semester in college.

Most dual-credit courses are transferable to in-state public colleges; many are transferable to colleges and universities across the country. A few private colleges now accept dual credits as well. Students should simply contact the college(s) they are considering and ask which dual credits will be accepted.

Dual-credit classes provide huge financial savings to families. College classes vary in cost from $100–$400 or more per credit hour (or unit). In contrast, dual programs may be free, or nominal fees may be required. If a student can earn 3 to 6 credit hours per semester during his junior and senior years, his family easily could save hundreds of dollars in tuition expenses. Some schools allow students to earn as many as 30 college credits during high school!

While each state has its own rules, general requirements for dual-credit courses usually include being 18 or under, a junior or senior in high school, a good attendance record, and a specified GPA. (Programs available through local high schools also may require the student to take a test, such as the ASSET, CLEP, ACT COMPASS, or PSAT.) To find out which tests your local colleges may use, simply google the name of the college and search within the website for dual-credit eligibility. Many of the tests are comparable in difficulty to the GED. Some states require ACT or SAT scores. Community and technical colleges commonly use the ASSET tests to determine placement in college-level English and math classes. Each college sets its own score parameters. If you are unfamiliar with the test(s) used in your area, conduct an Internet search on each test in question. Some websites allow students to take faux tests online to give them a feel for the test.

Brochures outlining dual-credit class availability and requirements should be available at your local college. If the college is working with area high schools, you should be able to obtain brochures from the high schools as well. A brochure should tell you if there are any class prerequisites, external work requirements, or extra lab requirements. After you have reviewed the material, make a list of questions that you or your child may have about each program of interest. Call the counselor or director, and request an appointment to go in and discuss your options. Many schools will offer to give you a tour of the facility and invite you to observe live classes.

Here are some questions to ask the counselor: