For American parents:
I don't know how it works in other places, but here in California, high schools offer "Advanced Placement" courses, which are theoretically college-level. They are graded on a 5 point scale (A=5, B=4, etc.). There are AP exams which the student has to pass.
If the student does this, these classes can count for college credit. That's where our story begins.
Our daughter took a ton of AP classes in high school (without any urging from us). Psychology, Government, Statistics, Environmental Science, English...some others that I don't remember. She was a very good student, and graduated with a 4.08 GPA. She passed all her AP exams (which cost $89 each!).
Last week she went of to college (a public university here in California). She moved in to the dorms, and did orientation, all that stuff. She started classes on Monday. We've been waiting to hear what kind of credit she would get for all her hard work.
Yesterday she was notified that her AP classes/exams would transfer 51 units to college. 51 units! That means that even though she started classes Monday, she is now a second semester Sophomore. She'll be a Junior at the end of this semester.
So basically, her willingness to work hard in high school and challenge herself amounts to the equivalent of a $34,000 scholarship. She can graduate in 2.5 years, at the ripe old age of 20.
With the cost of public university skyrocketing ($23,000 a year, for everything) this is huge for us, and for her. We are so proud, and a bit stunned that the program worked so effectively and smoothly. Our lives are never that easy! We've been so stressed about paying for college, and now it will cost us about 38% less than we thought.
So if you have kids in high school where these kinds of programs are available, give some serious thought to them. It paid off immensely for us.