— At the end of the school year, high-school students — especially rising juniors and seniors — begin planning their fall course loads. Many students consider dual enrollment, which are programs that allow qualified high-school students to take college courses while in high school. Students from a diverse range of academic backgrounds may take advantage of these programs.
The college courses fulfill high-school graduation requirements, and may even be used as credit toward an associate or bachelor’s degree, depending on where the student enrolls. Thus, dual enrollment can help students and parents potentially save money on college tuition. Courses can be taught at a college, high school or online, and students can take classes during the academic year or over the summer.
According to the most recent study done by the U.S. Department of Education, dual enrollment programs are growing nationally: More than half of all colleges and universities enrolled high-school students for college credit.
However, dual enrollment programs may not be the best fit for every student and family.
Students should consider dual enrollment if they:
1. Are looking to enrich their academic experience.
If students are on track to completing the necessary requirements for a high-school degree, dual enrollment gives them the opportunity to take advanced course work with college students and faculty. It also gives them an opportunity to experience the reality of college before they leave high school.
2. Have a flexible schedule.
Dual credit courses can be offered on campus, online or at postsecondary institutions. Yet, to take full advantage of dual enrollment programs, students must have a flexible schedule. Sometimes, dual enrollment courses overlap with regular high-school schedules, which may cause conflicts.
3. Have school and home support.
Dual enrollment courses are accelerated and faculty will expect high-school students to perform at the college level. In order for students to handle the added pressure of independent work required in a college course as well as managing transportation, then they need the support of not only their family, but also high-school teachers and guidance counselors.
Still, some students should think twice before enrolling early in college courses. High-school students should consider these factors before taking a college course:
1. Not all colleges consider dual enrollment courses for transfer credit.
Although many public postsecondary institutions will accept dual enrollment courses toward their graduation requirements, this is less likely at a private college. Because there are no consistent policies about accepting dual enrollment courses for college credit, students should not to assume their credits will automatically transfer when they enroll in college.
2. Dual enrollment courses can limit a student’s high-school experience.
Although academics are a priority, spending time in a dual enrollment course may limit a student’s ability to get involved with extracurricular activities in and out of school. Remember, there are many other experiences a student can take advantage of during high school, such as developing an artistic or athletic talent. And colleges like to see more than just academics — specifically, how students make an impact in their high-school community.
3. Dual enrollment may involve additional costs.
There may be additional fees to take dual enrollment courses. In some instances, students are responsible for paying college tuition on top of books, lab fees and transportation costs. Students must examine the financial cost of taking dual enrollment courses and weigh the costs versus the long-term benefits before enrolling.
If students are looking to save money by reducing future college costs, they could take an Advanced Placement test. Anyone can take an AP test — enrollment in a course isn’t required — and the exam costs only $86. With a solid score of 3 or higher, students can usually use a successful AP test score to fulfill college requirements and gain college credit while in high school.
Since nearly all colleges have policies regarding how successful AP scores are used for credit and/or placement, this should always be the first step for students looking to enrich their academic experience while getting a better value for their dollar. If a school does not teach AP courses, see they’re available online.
Overall, if students are interested in getting college credit in high school, they should speak to their guidance counselors about both the AP and dual enrollment options. Not only will these programs enrich a student’s high-school experience, but they will also allow the student to make a positive impression on any college admissions committee — and that’s the real benefit of taking advantage of an opportunity like this.