Preparing for College

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 matriculation—whether these classes are on campus, online, or elsewhere—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.