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New College Students: Don't Forget to Claim Your Earned Credits!

Students work hard at AP and dual enrollment classes each year...and forget to transfer their credits! Don't be this student and claim what you've earned.

Decision day has come and gone, and now you are eagerly anticipating the start of your first year as an undergraduate. As you wrap up senior year and head into the summer, you’ll be busy enjoying your hard-earned time off before attending first-year orientation, connecting with your roommate, and scheduling an initial meeting with your new academic advisor. However, if you took dual enrollment or AP courses in high school, there is still work to be done! Amid all this excitement, don't forget a crucial step: making sure any college credits you earned from those AP exams or dual enrollment classes transfer to your new college.

College credit through dual enrollment courses

If you took a dual enrollment college class while attending high school, you likely have a transcript that verifies the number of transferable college credits you received. Although policies vary by school, the idea behind dual credit programs is for you to simultaneously earn both high school and college credit by taking pre-approved courses. Whether you traveled to a college campus to take courses traditionally, took college classes online, had a college professor who visited your high school, or even had a high school teacher who was certified to teach certain subjects at the college level, all these experiences most likely count for credit.

Related: How to Ensure Your Dual Enrollment Credit Transfers

Transferring your college credits

Each university has its own policy about dual enrollment credits. Some schools will accept all credits from any accredited college, while others may place limits on how many or the types of credits that can be transferred. For example, one university may only accept academic subjects and refuse to transfer credits earned in vocational or career-oriented subjects. Another college may view dual enrollment credits as part of your high school experience and be unwilling to accept any of your previously earned credits.

Credit earned through AP exams

Similarly, if you took Advanced Placement exams (the test, not just the course) and earned satisfactory scores, you may be eligible for college credit at your new university. Again, each institution will have its own unique policies around AP credit. A school may decide that credit will be awarded for scores of 3 and above in some subjects but scores of 4 or 5 will be required for others. A quick internet search of “your college's name + AP credit" will likely return a chart of score cutoffs and credits awarded for each available test.

Related: Pre-College Credit: How to Earn It and How It Transfers

Sending your official records and requesting credit

Even if you think your college won't award credit for your dual enrollment or AP test scores, it's worth sending proof of completion anyway. Sometimes schools that won't offer credit toward a degree will still use those records to place you in higher-level classes your first year. The first step is to request official transcripts from the College Board AP program and the college(s) you took courses through as a high school student. Have these official records sent directly to the college you will be attending in the fall, then schedule a meeting with your college academic advisor to ask how these credits might apply to your degree plan. If you saved your syllabi from the dual enrollment classes, bring those to the meeting—sometimes a college needs more information about a class before awarding credit.

Elective credits vs. course equivalencies

If your college decides to award credit for your AP scores and dual enrollment classes, there are a couple ways they might apply to your degree. Most commonly, AP and transfer credits can fulfill general education requirements or elective units. Sometimes AP or dual enrollment credit is deemed equivalent to a specific college class, so that exact course will be placed on your transcript as complete. If that class happens to be part of a series—such as levels of math or foreign language—you can move directly to the next level as if you had taken the course on campus!

Related: What's the Difference Between AP and Dual Enrollment Classes?

Remember, if you’re in doubt about the status of your credits, just ask! Students often assume their AP test scores aren’t good enough or a dual enrollment class was too niche to transfer. But if you don't ask about transferable credit, you might miss out on great benefits like advanced class standing, early graduation, tuition savings, and time for study abroad or a double major.

Time is ticking down to your first semester! Make the transition even easier with all Our Best Advice for Your First Year of College.

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About Jaime Smith

Jaime Smith, MA, MSEd, is a Certified Educational Planner with 25 years of experience in the field of education. After many years of teaching English at the middle, high school, and college levels, Jaime turned to online education and founded a virtual K–12 supplementary education program,, where she continues to teach gifted and twice-exceptional homeschooled students.

As a college advisor, Jaime specializes in transfer admission and application essays as well as homeschool students, neurodiverse learners, and other non-traditional applicants. In 2023, she received her post-master's certificate in Transfer Leadership and Practice from the University of North Georgia in collaboration with the National Institute for the Study of Transfer Students. As a fervent advocate for transfer support, she blogs about transfer credit and admission at her website, Transfer Savvy, and is happy to connect with families and colleagues on LinkedIn.


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