Earning a bachelor's degree is a major achievement that can drastically affect your lifetime earning potential and self-esteem. Those with bachelor's degrees will earn, on average, $1 million more during their working life than those without one. Only 27 percent of the American public has a bachelor's degree, placing the holder in elite company. However, traditional university-level degree programs can be rigorous, cost tens of thousands of dollars and generally take at least four years. There are two other options for students that require less expense and time.

Online College

Research online institutions. Many online colleges offer a wide range of programs. In addition, some traditional institutions offer online courses that can lead toward a bachelor's degree. Decide your area of study and narrow your search to appropriate programs.

Verify that the online institution is accredited. Since most online colleges operate on a for-profit basis, there are numerous scams and tricks existing on the Internet. Make sure you do not spend valuable time and money enrolling in an unaccredited institution.

Enroll in the online college or program. This will require upfront payment, although online programs typically cost less than traditional four-year colleges.

Complete the online program and earn your bachelor's. Online degree programs allow you to go at your own pace, so you may be able to continue working at a full or part time job.

Post-Seconday Enrollment Option

Consult your high school guidance counselor regarding your post-secondary enrollment options (PSEO). Most states allow high school students to earn college credits during their junior or senior years, with tuition paid for by the high school. PSEO students attend a local college or university in place of high school courses, and at the same time, earn credits toward their high school diploma.

Research degree programs and areas of study. The most difficult decision high school students make is what they will study in college. If you want to earn the most college credits possible, you must begin researching classes during your sophomore year so you can enroll in your junior year. If you cannot make a decision, be aware that the first few semesters of college are filled with general education requirements, so you can take these first.

Enroll in PSEO classes. Your guidance counselor will shepherd you through the process and paperwork required to enroll in the program and college.

Complete PSEO classes. At maximum, you can earn two years of college credits while still in high school at no cost. When you arrive in college, you will already be at a junior level, can earn a bachelor's in two years instead of four, and will save a significant amount of money.

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