A 10-year-old from Canton, Ohio is the youngest student enrolled at Stark State College this year.

Surprising? Even shocking? Yes.

Darryl Elijah Owens, one of 27 students at a nonprofit homeschool organization called Cross Over Academy, enrolled at Stark State when he was 9-years-old.

Elijah’s father, Darryl Owens Jr., is the administrator and founder of Cross Over Academy. Seven of his 15 Cross over students were enrolled at Stark State this fall through a state-sponsored program called College Credit Plus. This program helps middle and high school students who are ready for college-level courses to begin their higher education early.

A major perk of the College Credit Plus program is that it gives students the ability to take courses that count toward both their high-school diploma and their college degree. Darryl’s goal is to help his homeschool students graduate high school with a college degree already completed.

If your homeschool student is interested in enrolling in college early to fast-track their college degree—whether they’re dual enrolling or graduating high school early—there are a few things you need to know before you get started.

1. Many college applications are the same for homeschooled early enrollees and dual-enrollment students as they are for high-school graduates

In many cases, dual-enrolling in college (or applying for early college) requires the same steps for homeschool students as for students in public or private schools. Your student will need to apply to his or her college of choice, complete a placement test, and provide a homeschool transcript to the admissions department. Be sure to contact your student’s school of choice to find out the specific steps you’ll need for enrollment.

2. You’ll still need to create a transcript for your homeschooled student

Whether you create your student’s transcript from scratch or use a service like Transcript Maker, you’ll need thorough documentation of your student’s academic and extracurricular accomplishments earlier on in high school than you would on a traditional graduation track.

Be sure to include core coursework in Mathematics, English, History/Social Studies, Science, and Foreign Language, plus additional recommended credits like Fine Arts, Physical Education, and Electives. Helping them create a strong transcript will make the application process much smoother and give admissions personnel a clear snapshot of your student.

3. Create a plan and set goals for achieving early graduation

Your student will need to fulfill all credit requirements for graduation before they earn a diploma. If your student is interested in graduating early, make sure you work together to create a plan, decide on a graduation date, and set goals for completing all the required classes on time. 

Getting on a path to early graduation is possible, but will require careful planning, strategy, and hard work. Your student’s diploma won’t be any different, but the final transcript will display fewer semesters.

4. Find out your state and local laws regarding early graduation

Every state has different homeschooling laws and regulations, so it’s important to learn the specifics of your home state’s law. You’ll want to find out whether you’re required to notify your local superintendent of your student’s early high-school graduation. It’s possible you may have to get approval from the superintendent or school board prior to issuing a diploma. 

5. Your student might be able to bypass remedial college courses by taking Advanced Placement (AP) courses and classes

AP classes and tests could help accelerate your homeschool student’s early college or dual enrollment experience. These tests could help your student fast-track remedial college classes, which will save time and money if they’re looking to complete college early.

AP classes look great on your student’s transcript. Keep in mind that AP classes require a rigorous study schedule, cost around $92 per test, and receive two extra grade points on a weighted GPA scale.

6. Your student might be able to “CLEP” out of certain classes

CLEP stands for College Level Examination Process, and your student can take these courses and exams in place of certain college classes. Each CLEP costs about $100, but they’ll save you money on college courses in the long run.

Before getting started on CLEP exams, find out whether your student’s college and major of choice will accept them—because some don’t. CLEPs can also render your student ineligible for certain scholarships.

7. You might be able to get financial aid to assist with your student’s college course expenses

Once your student is accepted, you may be able to apply for financial aid to help pay for courses. Submit a FAFSA form as early as possible when you’re planning for your student’s enrollment to find out what kind of support you qualify for. 

Some homeschooling programs like Darryl Owens’s Cross Over Academy offer financial support to their students to help pay for college courses. If you are part of an organization like his, you might qualify for similar support. You can also help your student apply for any applicable scholarships.

Depending on the school, if your student does choose to dual-enroll or head to college early, some scholarships may not be available. For example, certain scholarships are reserved only for freshmen who don’t have previous college course work behind them. Talk to the financial aid advisor at your student’s school of choice for more specific information, as all schools have variations in their policies.

The bottom line

It’s possible—and very doable—for your homeschool student to fast-track through college by graduating high school early or dual-enrolling during high school. Transcript and college application requirements likely won’t differ much from typical college applications, but you will need to work closely and diligently with your student to fulfill the requirements earlier than usual to match with your student’s graduation goals. 

With careful planning, a little strategy, and clear goals, your student can move toward his or her professional or college aspirations with confidence.