If you’re ambitious, you might want to take advantage of online education options even before you’ve earned your high school diploma. While you’re probably not ready to actually apply to online colleges, there are still ways to use online classes to get ahead in your education. Two common ways are to enroll in no-credit courses or to use online high school-level courses to take classes outside your brick-and-mortar school.

Increasing Your Knowledge through MOOCs

Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOCs, are online college-level courses that students can usually enroll in for free. Because there’s no cap on the number of students who enroll in these courses, the class often grows quite large – hence the word “massive” in the name.

Typically, MOOCs grant no college credit. However, they expose you to the challenge of college-level work and can help you learn the fundamentals – and maybe more – of the subject. For high school students looking to make their application stand out, participating in MOOCs – during summer breaks, for example – can help make an application “appear more scholarly,” according to newspaper The Santa Fe New Mexican. While not required, participation in MOOCs can round out lists of extracurricular activities, adding a more serious academic element to sports, hobbies, internships and volunteer work.

Online High School Courses

Depending on what subject you intend to study in college, you may know that taking certain classes in high school can help you either with gaining acceptance into the program or with excelling in your coursework. However, not all high schools offer all classes, especially at advanced levels or in niche subjects. Some high school students are now choosing to take high school-level online courses from providers other than their own school, like Primavera Online High School in Arizona.

In fact, this route is becoming so popular among ambitious high school students that it’s causing some unintended consequences for school districts. Some traditional school districts are actually seeing a decrease in state funding due to having to split money with these outside providers, according to The Arizona Republic.

Students have different reasons for taking online high school courses. Some are looking for courses their own schools might not offer. Others might want to take additional courses that don’t fit into their school day schedules, either during the summer or other break times or completing their work in the evenings or on weekends. Still others just want the freedom to learn at their own pace, particularly when it comes to subjects that aren’t their strengths.

For most high school students, enrolling in for-credit college classes online isn’t an option. While exactly what age you must be to start taking online college courses varies by institution, the average age requirement for most schools is 15. Besides, a high school diploma or GED is often essential for enrollment. MOOCs and online high school courses help make the convenience of an online education a reality for these students.