How to Hack College Pre-Reqs


Everybody and their brother has advice to new college students about how best to maximize their college experience. And in few areas does that advice feature more prominently than in regard to college pre-requisite courses. You will hear loads of advice about challenging courses, taking advanced placement (AP) classes in high school, internships for credit and so much more. As with all advice, some of what you hear will be useful, and some won’t do you much good at all.

Whatever term your college uses for its pre-requisite courses, perhaps they’re just called pre-reqs or requirements or core classes, they create the educational foundation your institute of higher learning prides itself on so you can count on fulfilling those requirements to be serious business. But, yes, the short answer is there are some hacks that can help you deal with your pre-req courses a little faster and easier.

Challenging coursework

Challenging a course is one of those mythical college life hacks that most incoming freshmen hear about. You know, the legend of the girl who challenged every course and only had to attend three semesters worth of actual classes to graduate. Maybe that legend is true, but consider it to be a once-in-a-lifetime fluke. In reality, challenging a course is generally neither simple or easy.

The core concept of challenging a college course is that you are declaring you already know everything the course can teach you and that taking it would be a waste of time. By no means do all colleges and universities allow you to challenge coursework, but by some estimates more than half do. The ‘how’ of a challenge varies by school and by department or professor. You’ll need to talk to your advisors and teachers to find out how it’s done t your school. Some challenges are as simple as a test, some require an essay, and some require some sort of demonstration or project. Basically, don’t think that a course challenge means you won’t be putting any work in—you will. Not least because you’ll need to score a good enough grade to actually have a successful challenge.

Advanced Placement (AP) courses

Many high school students are told they can earn college credit by taking advanced placement courses. These courses usually require extra effort, and possibly fees, to take and they are meant to be academically rigorous. While you very well may receive some college credit for AP courses you took in high school, there’s also a good chance you won’t. You’re more likely to have luck transferring those credits if you enroll in a local community college than if you apply to a four-year university on the other side of the country. Just because you may not get credit for your AP courses doesn’t mean they’re necessarily a waste of time, though—many AP courses do a good job of helping you transition from high school to college-level study and homework habits