What Is Dual Enrollment In High School?

What's dual enrollement?
April 26, 2024
3 min read
Expert Reviewed


Reviewed by:

Mary Banks

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 4/26/24

What is dual enrollment in high school, and is it the right choice for you? Keep reading as we cover the bases of dual enrollment. You may discover a new path to fast-track you to success. 

Eager high school students who wish to start their college education early should consider dual enrollment. So, what is dual enrollment? 

We’re here to help answer your questions! We’ve put together some essential information and frequently asked questions about dual enrollment to help you make the best decision for yourself and your academic success.

What is Dual Enrollment in High School?

Dual enrollment is a program that allows students to take college courses while they’re still in high school. These courses count for both high school and college credit. Dual enrollment can save time and money and give students a jump start on their college education. 

For example, a student may take a high school dual enrollment English course. Once they complete the course, the student will earn a high school credit and a college credit in English. In this case, the student will not have to take a first-year English course in their first year of college.

Pros and Cons of Dual Enrollment

So, what are the pros and cons of dual enrollment credits? Why would anyone be interested in taking a dual credit? There are many benefits for students who are thinking about taking dual credit classes. 

4 Pros of Dual Enrollment

1. Time and Cost Effective 

Because you will already have a few college credits under your belt as you start college, you might be able to finish your degree early. This means that you will be able to save some time by getting your degree sooner and saving money, as you won’t be paying for as many college courses. 

You can save even more on textbooks and fees, making dual enrollment courses cost-effective. 

2. Gain an Understanding of College Expectations 

Dual credits allow students to experience college expectations and workload. Doing so can make the transition into college much smoother. As these courses are offered at colleges, students can also get familiar with the campus. 

3. Get a Jumpstart on Your Education and Career

Overall, taking dual credit courses is time and cost-effective for students who want to go to college. You will not be starting at ground zero as you’ll already have a couple of credits toward your degree. This also means students can graduate early and enter the workforce faster. 

4. Opportunities to Explore New Things

Dual enrollment courses also allow students to explore different areas of study and subjects to gauge their interest. If students are still determining what they want to take in college, dual enrollment classes provide a unique opportunity for students to try out different courses outside of their high school curriculum. 

Whether you want to earn some credits toward your college degree or try out different areas of study, dual enrollment is a great route. There are, however, some disadvantages to consider before making a final decision. 

4 Cons of Dual Enrollment

1. Credits May Not Transfer 

There is the possibility that your credits won’t transfer to the college you want to attend. While this is very unlikely for community colleges, it is certainly possible if you consider a private college. Specifically, Ivy League schools do not accept these credits. 

You can always check with schools you are considering to find out if they accept dual credits. If you want an education at a reputable school while taking dual credits, there are tons of amazing non-Ivy schools out there!

2. Missing Out On Other Opportunities

Getting a headstart on your college career and graduating early sounds great. However, this also means that students may miss out on significant opportunities and experiences, especially alongside their friends. 

You might miss opportunities to study abroad, get internships, and even graduate with your friends if you graduate college early or are overloaded with coursework. 

While you should put your needs and goals first, you should also consider what experiences you may miss out on. 

3. It May Negatively Affect Your GPA 

Dual credits are more rigorous and demanding than other high school credits. Students may find the workload and expectations challenging, which could result in getting lower grades. 

Lower grades mean a lower cumulative GPA, which can impact your eligibility for merit-based scholarships and your ability to get into certain colleges

4. Greater Chances of Falling Behind 

Dual enrollment courses typically take place on college campuses, so it’s the student’s responsibility to ensure they get to the college in time for their class. This may be less accessible for students who do not drive or have access to a vehicle. 

Additionally, college professors will not communicate and report back to students’ parents about their grades, attendance, etc. As a result, struggling students may risk falling behind and doing poorly in the course.

two female students working together on homework

Dual Enrollment vs. AP Classes

Dual enrollment courses allow students to get college credits while simultaneously earning high school credits. Meanwhile, AP classes are advanced high school courses that do not guarantee college credits. 

We’ve put together a chart outlining the differences between dual enrollment vs. AP classes to help you make a decision that’s best for you! 

Dual Enrollment Classes AP Classes
Gives you the opportunity to explore areas of interest available outside of your high school Generally more widely recognized and accepted by colleges
Access to free college level courses May need to pay for AP exams
Relocation and travel may be required (you may have to drive to a college to take the course) Available in your high school (no relocation or travel necessary)
Guaranteed college credit (if the course is passed) Not guaranteed a college credit (need to reach a certain score on the AP exam)
Allows students to mix with college students and explore the campus Allows students to be in classes with their friends and peers
Need to meet the eligibility requirements and be granted permission Sign up is done directly in the high school with a counselor

If you are more focused on completing college early, dual enrollment credits may be your best option. If you are more interested in academics and getting into an Ivy League college, AP classes may be more beneficial for your goals.

Dual Enrollment vs Dual Credit

In simple terms, high school students in dual enrollment take college classes to earn college credit only. But those in dual credit also get high school credit alongside college credit for the same courses.

Dual enrollment is a great way to earn college credit in highschool and potentially reduce your workload in college. 

What does dual credit entail? For dual credit courses, the classes are taught by a high school teacher right at the student's own high school. This is great for students who want to try out college-level work in a place they're comfortable with, and for those who want to skip the hassle of traveling to a college campus.

FAQs: What is Dual Enrollment?

If you still have questions, we’ve got you covered! We answer some frequently asked questions below. 

1. Is Dual Enrollment Better Than AP?

Dual enrollment isn’t better than AP classes, and AP classes aren’t necessarily better than dual enrollment. Both options have somewhat similar outcomes, and they both have many benefits for students. 

Book an appointment with your school’s counselor if you are unsure whether to take dual enrollment courses or AP classes. They are there to provide information and guidance on the best options for you and your goals. 

2. What Are the Best Dual Enrollment Classes To Take?

There are two ways to strategically pick dual enrollment classes to get the most out of them. 

The first way is to take classes geared toward your academic interests. If you are interested in pursuing a career in the sciences, try taking some science courses. When you are interested in the course subject, you’re more likely to do well in it. Doing well means earning the credit and getting a strong jumpstart on your college degree. 

The second option to consider is taking dual enrollment credits toward classes you are worried about or want out of the way. For example, if you don’t like writing courses, taking a dual enrollment writing course means you can get it done and over with! 

This way, you can spend more time and energy on the credits you need for your college degree rather than worrying about elective courses. 

However, the second option may be risky. If you do not enjoy the courses, the high expectations and increased workload may impact your work in the class and result in a lower grade. 

3. Does Dual Enrollment Look Good on College Applications?

Yes, dual enrollment does look good on a college application, especially if you finish the course with a high grade. 

Alongside dual enrollment, check out other ways to make your college application stand out

4. Do Ivy League Schools Accept Dual Enrollment?

No, most Ivy schools do not accept dual enrollment transfer credits. This is something to keep in mind if you are considering applying to Ivy League Schools with dual enrollment courses.

Final Thoughts

When deciding to enroll in dual credits or AP classes, there’s a lot to think about! Think about your ultimate academic and career goals, and see which route will most cater to your needs.  

Dual enrollment allows you to get the most out of your money and time since you’ll be taking free college courses and earning credits toward your high school and college diplomas. 

If you want to get into an Ivy League school, AP classes may be the better path as they hold more academic merit and are more widely recognized overall.

If you are having difficulties deciding whether dual enrollment is the right choice for you, take advantage of your school’s counselor and book a meeting to explore your options. 

Best of luck with your future endeavors!

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