Prepárate 2024

How a CLEP Initiative Boosts the College-Going Mindset of Latino Students

“A lot of my students aren't thinking about going to college yet. But taking this test tells them that they can,” said Mallory Essman, a college and career counselor at Skyview High School in Nampa, Idaho. Essman spoke recently to curious educators and counselors at the 2024 Prepárate conference. 

Imagine arriving to high school as a teenager not knowing English. What might that barrier feel like? How might the ability to learn be challenging? Now imagine going to college after limited English proficiency made your high school experience a struggle.

These are the students that Essman supports. Understandably, they have a hard time seeing themselves succeed in higher education. To help them realize that college could be a viable pathway for them, Essman utilizes the College-Level Examination Program, more widely known as CLEP®.

How CLEP Benefits Skyview High School’s Latino Students

CLEP offers 34 timed, computer-based exams that test introductory level college course material. Students receive immediate score results (unless they take exams with essays). CLEP is scored on a scale from 20 to 80, and more than 2,900 colleges and universities award credit for CLEP (usually with a score of 50).

Since 2014, the Spanish CLEP Initiative at Skyview High School has encouraged native, heritage, and bilingual Spanish speakers to take the Spanish CLEP exam on a university campus. The students pass at an astounding rate.

In the 2022–23 school year, more than 40 students passed the Spanish Language CLEP exam with a score of 50 or higher. As a result of the experience, Essman notes that students earned college credit and gained an increase in confidence about their ability to succeed in college.

Partnerships with higher education institutions continue to contribute to the initiative’s success. The College of Western Idaho (CWI) works with high schools to schedule a testing date at Boise State University's testing center. CWI will then assist with student registration and test day. After students take their tests, they tour Boise State University, enjoy free lunch in the student cafeteria, and experience the university setting.

“It's really important that they take the exam on a literal college campus,” remarks Essman, “They start to look around, and they start to see themselves there.”

Helping Latino Students Get One Step Closer to College

At the end of her presentation, Essman shared a selection of student quotes:

"It was just such a like, 'made it!' moment." 

"It made me feel like I can go to college and succeed ... Be confident, I guess.” 

"I always thought I was too stupid to go to college. Now I have these credits. I guess I'm not."

“The CLEP test was almost like a symbol of progress that’s really empowering.”

As Essman described being with students when they receive their passing CLEP scores, she recalls: 

'Are you aware that you just got college credit? That's amazing!’ That's a fun moment because they see that they have knowledge, they have college credit, and they belong here on a college campus.