Dual Enrollment Programs: Getting College Credit in High School
What is Dual Enrollment?
Dual enrollment programs are accelerated tracks that allow eligible secondary students to complete postsecondary coursework, earning high school and college credit at the same time. Public, charter, private, and homeschooled students can all take college level courses at community college campuses, participating high schools, or online. Such programs can save students time and money as they are often exempt from paying tuition, application, and laboratory fees.
What are the Pros & Cons?
Taking college-level courses while you are still in high school has several benefits. You may, for instance, have the opportunity to take a class not otherwise offered at your high school. This could bring you one step closer to choosing your degree or, if you already have an idea in mind, you can dive straight into a subject you love.
Beyond the subject matter itself, a dual enrollment class exposes you to the environment of a college classroom. It gives you a chance to get comfortable with the setting, rigor, and expectations, altogether preparing you for an easier transition into the full-time college lifestyle.
The most obvious benefit to dual enrolling is the possibility to earn credit toward your degree—at no cost! The credits you earn may help you bypass some general education requirements and get to the core classes for your major that much quicker. Many students also earn enough college credit in high school to graduate college early. In some instances, students can rack up so much credit that they graduate from high school having earned their associate’s degree as well.
Dual enrollment may have many benefits, but it is not always the best option for everyone. Before you decide to take these courses, consider how dual enrollment would impact your high school curriculum, current courses, and extracurricular activities.
One helpful question to ask yourself would be, “Does this college course offer something that reaches beyond the opportunities at my high school?” Think about it: if you choose to take an introductory U.S. History course at your local community college, but your high school offers AP U.S. History, some colleges may be less impressed with your choice to dual enroll than they would have been if you passed the AP exam in the same subject. Speak to your high school guidance counselor or any other trustworthy, knowledgeable adult to help you weigh your options.
Another reason you may want to forego dual enrollment is that it may take you away from other classes or activities that would otherwise boost your college résumé. For instance, if you are captain of the soccer team and first-chair violinist in the orchestra, but a dual enrollment course would somehow conflict with your schedule/ability to participate, you might want to reconsider. It might be wiser to take college courses that don’t interfere with your extracurriculars or anything else to which you are admirably committed to.
When Can I Start Dual Enrollment Courses?
Every dual enrollment program has specific requirements, so you should check with your high school counselor to see which factors affect you. Criteria vary from state to state, but the ability to earn college credit is typically possible only for students in their junior or senior year with a GPA of at least 2.5. Meet with your counselor as soon as you decide that you’re interest in dual enrollment—they will be able to tell you whether you qualify and, if so, when to register.
How Do I Start Taking Dual Enrollment Courses?
If you already know the community college at which you will be taking courses, a quick Google search can let you figure out the basic facts of its dual enrollment program. Some schools require minimum SAT/ACT test scores, GPA requirements, and possible approval letters from your guidance counselor or legal guardian. Chances are that your counselor also knows what is required from the community colleges in your area.
College Credit on a High School Schedule
It’s often not difficult to find college courses that fit into your high school schedule. For instance, many community colleges have professors teach sections of their class at area high schools, eliminating the need for high schoolers to travel or significantly alter their schedules. Some even offer courses online—do your research and see how you can enroll!
Is Dual Enrollment Right for You?
For many students, dual enrollment is a great learning experience as well as a helpful opportunity to get ahead. If you’re up for the coursework and able to make it work for your schedule, we recommend you give it a shot! That said, if you have a schedule that makes it difficult to succeed in all of your classes, or if you feel like you stick to your high school environment/courses before jumping into a college classroom, maybe dual enrollment isn’t for you. Remember: your college transcript begins right when you start participating in dual enrollment. All dual enrollment courses become a part of your permanent college transcript. Make the decision that will give you the best outcome!
There’s plenty to consider when deciding whether to take college-level courses in high school. Dual enrollment can be just as challenging as it is rewarding. Make a visit to your counselor’s office and get to know your options, and keep working hard so that you can jump into college prepared and ready to succeed!