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Articles / Applying to College / College Credit for Distance Learning?

April 18, 2003

College Credit for Distance Learning?

Question: Will a college give credit or exempt a student from requirements if he or she takes university-level courses through distance learning? I am a sophomore now and expect to take up to 7 classes through the Stanford University distance learning program before I graduate from high school.

Every college makes its own rules, and there’s no easy way to get your question answered without contacting each admission office on your target-college list when the time comes for you to apply. To muddy the waters even more, as the number of distance-learning opportunities increases and as more high school students take advantage of classes at nearby community colleges, many policies are under review, so a response you get right now may be different from one you’d receive by the time you are ready to head to college.


In general, however, you will find it far easier to be exempt from entry-level courses and even from required courses as a result of your Stanford classes than you will to get credit for them. In other words, most college officials don’t want to see their freshmen snoring away in classes that cover material they’ve already studied, and they’ll be willing to let you jump ahead if you can validate your competency in the subject matter. This validation may come from your Stanford grades, from SAT II scores, Advanced Placement exam scores, or from the institution’s own placement tests that are administered during the orientation period.

When it comes to getting actual credit for college classes you’ve taken prior to formal matriculationâ€"whether these classes are on campus, online, or elsewhereâ€"that’s where you’ll find college policies varying and changing. Even those schools that do grant credit for your Stanford accomplishments will probably put a ceiling on just how many of these credits they’ll accept. You should also consider taking Advanced Placement tests in the subjects you cover in your Stanford courses, even if you aren’t taking the official AP classes at your high school. Colleges and universities that don’t award credit for your Stanford work are likely to give it for high scores on the AP exams.

Good luck to you as you make your course and college decisions. It sounds like you’re doing some wise planning already.

Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

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