Students can often gain an edge in the college admissions process by challenging themselves through rigorous classes, such as those found in Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB) or the Advanced International Certificate of Education (AICE) programs. Although these programs allow students the opportunity to experience college-level courses in high school, some may find them intimidating and overly stressful. Luckily, there is another option that is more accessible to a variety of students and still allows them to experience college classes without the added stress – dual enrollment. Dual enrollment is gaining in popularity in high schools across the U.S., especially with cash-strapped families who see the program as a gateway to college; students can register for actual college courses while in high school, but most pay little or nothing to participate. Before families decide if a dual enrollment program is right for their children, here are a few things to consider.
Save Money – Students can save money at college by getting some of their general courses and electives completed during their high school years. Many states offer dual enrollment students the opportunity to attend college classes, and receive the perks associated with college enrollment, at no cost. Even those who may have to pay for textbooks and lab fees can shave quite a bit off their college expenses.
Experience College Life – For those students who may be on the fence about going to college, dual enrollment can actually help motivate them to pursue a college degree. Students will have the chance to engage with college students, participate in real college classes and even experience college life on a nearby college campus. Most students will have access to services, such as the campus gym, library, cafeteria and even campus events, which can open their minds to the world beyond high school.
Flexibility – Depending on the high school district, students may have the opportunity to take college classes on their high school campus, at the actual college campus, or even online. They will typically have more choices, as well. Dual enrollment is a great way for students to explore possible majors, by trying different electives or courses within specific degree programs.
Earn College Credit – Unlike AP and IB programs, which require students to pass an exam to earn college credit for specific classes, dual enrollment students can earn credits for every college course they pass while in high school, as well as earning high school credits for the same course. It’s even possible for students to earn enough credits to graduate from high school with an associate’s degree.
Grades Count – Students who participate in dual enrollment must be aware that the grades they earn in their college classes will become part of their permanent college record. Not only will this affect their college admission prospects, but it may also affect potential scholarship opportunities. Additionally, students who do not pass their college courses may also find that they do not meet their high school graduation requirements, delaying their ability to receive their diploma on time.
Credits May Not Transfer – Some students may find that the college credits they earned during dual enrollment may not be accepted by all colleges, especially private schools. It’s important for students to carefully consider which courses they will take and verify the credit will be accepted by those colleges on their list, otherwise they may find themselves retaking the course (and paying for it) in the future.
Change in Status – Depending on the number of credits received, some colleges may consider a dual enrollment student as a ‘transfer’ and not a traditional incoming college freshman, which means they would not be eligible for first-year student scholarships and other financial aid designated for freshman only. It could also affect their college admission chances, since most schools admit fewer transfer students than freshman.
Those who understand the ramifications of tackling college-level work while in high school may find dual enrollment rewarding, both mentally and financially. It can offer average students the chance to try out college life and determine if pursuing a college degree is the right path for them without making a substantial financial investment. Dual enrollment can also motivate those who are on the fence to work harder in high school and set goals for their academic future. Students who are interested in dual enrollment should meet with their guidance counselor to learn more about the program and to find out what fees, if any, may be associated with it.