How did Thomas Jefferson graduate from the college of William and Mary after completing all of his studies in two years… and at the age of 18??? Why is the average age at which students graduate from college rising dramatically? Is it possible today to help your child graduate with their bachelor’s degree by age 18?

Bachelor's Degree by Age 18When I had a chance to attend a seminar titled “A Bachelor’s Degree by Age 18”, I was skeptical but decided to hear what the presenter had to say. This seminar, taught by Woody Robertson, was filled with information I had never before heard. Woody talked about the trend for students to graduate later and later in life, the reason schools became grade segregated, and how it’s possible for your child to be enrolled in high school and college at the same time.

Students Graduating Later and Later

In America, educating methods have changed drastically over time. In the 1600s through the early 1800s, the regular method of educating children was either the homeschool or mentor model of education. Affluent families would hire a teacher to live with their family and educate their children. Parents of less means would educate their children themselves.

This was the standard way of educating children for the first couple of hundred years that people lived on this continent. We have many great thinkers who emerged during this time including all of our founding fathers. No one would ever think to accuse these men of having received a substandard education.

For much of the 1800s, children were educated in one room schoolhouses. This change came about because many people were moving out to the frontier and there were book shortages out west. Parents decided to bind together to educate their children, allowing them to hire one teacher to teach several children. This enabled students to share what few books they could gather.

This method was also very successful. As most education experts would agree, it is extremely helpful for older students to help teach younger students. This allows them to cement the knowledge in their own minds as they relay the information to other students.

 How and Why Grade Segregation Came About

The early 1900s to the present has seen the birth of the grade segregated classroom in our country. This initially came about for a number of reasons. First, World War I was looming and America saw Germany as a threat. Teachers wanted to be sure they didn’t skip any information while teaching their students to try to ensure that our students would come out more highly educated than would the German students.

Time Capsule Medieval England

Another factor which was less benevolent was introduced by several financiers. Before this time, students would graduate from grammar school and would go directly to college. The idea of sending students to high school before college was introduced by men such as Carnegie, Morgan, Ford and Rockefeller. Requiring four years of high school meant that many new facilities would need to be built to house the students who were being educated for an additional four years.

A third factor which contributed to starting grade segregation was that the industrial revolution was beginning around this time. Some of those same financiers needed schools to produce thousands of workers for their factories. These men surmised that if the length of education were increased by an additional four years, many students might become tired of learning and would decline the option of going on to college. They wanted workers who had “just enough” education to be content working on the assembly lines.

There is a lot more information available concerning the current model of education and how it all came about. I would suggest you read one of these books to get even more background, if you are interested:

 Dual Credit/Enrollment Options

So… how do we help our kids to complete high school and college within four years? We basically have them complete both at the same time. There are three different ways to make this happen:

  •  Community College Option – You can have your child enroll in a community college and have them complete classes which will count toward their high school and their college education. This has the advantage of being inexpensive; however, it’s important to remember that it can be an R-rated environment in college so you need to make sure your child is mature enough to be able to handle that type of atmosphere.
  • Online Courses – This is a way to help your student get a traditional education. Your child may still be exposed to classroom materials you don’t agree with using this method, however, they won’t actually be physically present with older students. They would still be interacting with these students but since it would be through methods such as email, it would be easier for you to monitor and help them work through.
  • Credit by Exam – This is the method that Woody recommended in his seminar. This method allows you to teach your student as you normally would and then have them take a test which will give them college credit in the future. There are three different types of tests that can be taken: DSST Exams, AP Exams, and CLEP exams. CLEP is what Woody recommended in the seminar.

According to Woody, there are five different General Ed CLEPS that everyone should take:

  • College Composition
  • Humanities
  • Social Science and History
  • Natural Sciences
  • College Mathematics
  • Nuts and Bolts of Dual Enrollment

How do you know what high school requirements to record on their transcript when your student is using the credit by exam method? Basically, if they take a three credit exam, that is worth 1/2 of a high school credit. If they take a six credit exam, that is worth one full high school credit.

What about declaring a college major? What if your student doesn’t have a clear idea of what they want to do when they graduate? Woody suggests keeping their undergraduate degree as broad as possible. Have your child get a BA in either Communications or Business and then they can get more specialized if they decide to do some graduate work.

Woody also suggests pursuing internships to help your student try to test different areas of their interest. Also, he suggests basing your major on your student’s interests and passions versus identifying a specific job they think they might want to have.

 Modular Approach to Study

If you decide to go this route with your student, you may want to use a modular approach to study, focusing on one subject at a time and studying similar subjects in succession. You can read more about the benefits of this approach in these books by John Taylor Gatto:

A suggested daily schedule would be the following:

  •  Study English and Math for the first two hours of each day.
  • Spend the next 4-5 hours studying one specific subject. This is the subject you are studying with the goal of taking an exam for which to earn college credit.

After your student finishes studying for their specific subject, have them take a practice test. Have them take it immediately after finishing the subject. When they do well on the practice test, have them take the actual test. You will want to have your student start taking these tests by their junior year at the very latest.

One other practical item you will want to consider is whether the college your child wants to attend accepts CLEP or other exam credits. If the school your student wants to attend only accepts 10 hours of credit, it doesn’t do any good to have them take 20 hours worth of exams. The other thing to consider is that once your student has CLEP credits they have already proven that they are able to handle college-level classes and they will no longer be required to take either the ACT or the SAT. They will be considered as a transfer student instead of an incoming freshman.

Two fully accredited schools which accept lots of CLEP hours are Thomas Edison State College and Excelsior State College.

There is a ton of information here and I hope that by reading this article you’re able to at least get a sense that it is possible for your child to complete at least some of their high school and college classes at the same time. If you’re intrigued and would like to find out more, there is an organization called College Plus that would love to help you get started.

 Question:  Have you or anyone you know taken any CLEP tests?  Do you have any tips to share with others?  Please comment below.

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