Pros and Cons of Dual Enrollment


A recent US News article notes the rapid expansion of students taking college courses while still enrolled in high school. I’m a big fan of Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate courses, although not to crazy extremes (did you really need 36 courses this year? Does EVERY student in your school really need to be in AP?). On actual college courses while in high school, however, I always caution students and parents to carefully consider several issues.

1) How courses count – Not all colleges will accept dual enrollment credit, and if they do it’s still possible it won’t count towards the specific requirements of the major you enter at the institution you choose. In other words, they may have a specific course required that is different than the one you take, so you may not get any credit for the course, or you may get some but not be able to use it. On the flip side, just because a college allows you to take a course doesn’t mean your high school has to accept it – some students take the college course in hopes of filling a graduation requirement, only to find out the that the college course can’t be used that way. Always check with your guidance office if you plan on using college credit to cover any of your high school requirements.
2) How the courses look on your record – Bear in mind that college courses aren’t weighted the way most AP and IB courses are in high school. Your ‘B’ is just going to stay a ‘B’. Even great students often see a small dip in their initial college grades compared to high school, and that’s after colleges offer orientation and all kinds of support systems. Most dual enrollment students get very little support from the colleges – you’re just considered guests or visitors. As a result, I’ve seen many straight ‘A’ students in tears over getting their first ‘B’, which isn’t at all a bad grade in the challenging upper-level calculus class they’ve chosen, but a system shock to them. Remember that nearly every college and university admissions process requires that you send transcripts from ANY institution you attended. That means that even if you get a bad grade, and you can get a bad grade, you have to send it in.
3) Scheduling – while there are some college courses offered on high school schedules, most students trying dual enrollment take courses on the college campus on that institution’s schedule. It’s hard to schedule, for instance, two or three days a week (most colleges offer Mon/Wed, Tues/Thurs or Mon/Wed/Fri schedules) when your high school schedule is the same every day. It also means potentially sacrificing your spring break (since the college will likely still be having classes that week). Or it might mean giving up some extra-curricular activity since college course times often run through the end of the school day.

My advice on these is to carefully discuss with your high school guidance office before making a decision. I recommend usually taking these courses in your senior year (then you’re likely to get the college grades after the admission decision process, especially if its a spring class, so you get the benefit of showing that you’re gung ho without having to risk showing a bad grade at decision time). Most colleges do keep in mind that college grades are unweighted and aren’t deterred by a strong student getting one slightly lower grade – but that’s MOST colleges, and only if it’s a SLIGHTLY worse grade. If you really bomb the course, expect it to stand out on your record if the admissions office has it when reviewing your application.

One last thing – remember that, at most institutions, professors and students aren’t told which students are from high school, new freshmen, or upperclass students. Don’t be surprised if your son or daughter is invited to parties, rushed by a greek organization, or asked out on dates. I realize I’ve just provided ample incentive for many students to see dual enrollment as a GREAT idea, but I’m thinking that maybe some of you parents might see it a bit differently. Be seeing you.

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11 Responses

  1. I would like to comment on the Dual Enrollment courses. Actually, at my school they are called Dual Credit courses. Nevertheless I am taking two: DC Biology and DC Psychology. I was going to take three but I thought I would be overloading myself. However, our DC courses are on a ten point scale: 90-100 A, 80-89 B, 79-70 C, 69-60 D, 59-0 F. Thus, our grading scale helps our students. For example, if you get a 93 in your AP class, you receive a B. If you get a 93 in your DC class, you receive an A. In conclusion, the work may be on a higher level than AP, but at my high school the grading scale is to our advantage.

  2. I am currently doing dual enrollment and I very much recommend it. Im taking 3 courses at bc and most Universities in this area do accept credits earned through dual enrollment

  3. I am taking Calculus 2 and Chemistry at our local community college–and I’m in Junior year. Many kids in my AP classes at high school sort of hate me and are a bit jealous. The kids in my Dual Credit Classes have no idea that I’m in high school, but they think I’m supersmart anywary (mainly because I getting a 95-100 in both those classes). If you are able to take these dual enrollment classes, take it–you learn a great deal, rather than AP classes where you just learn how to get a 5 on the exam.

  4. Sorry for the spelling of “anywary” => anyway

  5. I am taking Calculus 3 for freshman year in high school–I am basically dying in that class with a 83. My GPA is probably going to drop like a rock. Don’t take these classes unless you are a super genius and/or are committed to these classes.

  6. Dual enrollment is a good idea but there are some downsides ti it. One is that you dont really feel like a college student everyone treats me different. Plus my GPA is dropping so bad. I started with straight A’s now I have B’s and C’s.

  7. I agree that college classes can help you while in high school. Being in Pre-Calculus and Humanities has really put me ahead in education compared to my classmates. However, in my pre-calculus class I have received a B grade both quarters, no matter how much I studied.On another note, I have gotten A’s all year for the Humanities sequence but one of the classes required APA citation for writing. This was something that I had not learned yet, and am just now learning at the end of my juinor year. While I am planning on going to a college campus next year, I strongly suggest that students deeply consider whether they are willing to try and do extremely hard classes and possibly lower their GPA while their classmates stroll through high school with all A’s.

  8. I’m currently a dual-enrolled student in my senior year. This is my second year in the program and I really recommend it for those who are willing to work. I’m currently taking five classes and at times it does feel somewhat overwhelming, but if you’re willing to work and make a few sacrifices, it will definitely be worth it. By the end of the school year I’ll have my AA and will transfer to a four-year school to finish up my last two years. The only negative thing about the program is that you may not always be with people your age, and a lot of times you may miss that.

  9. I will be graduating from a state college with an AA (Honors) as a Science Major two weeks before I graduate from High School (Honors). I have already been accepted to the University of my choice as a Junior studying Molecular Biology. I am so grateful for the Dual Enrollment program. AP almost seems ridiculous. So many students take these classes and pass with A(s), yet are unable to pass the “1” exam which determines college credit. Also, the many that I know that did actually get credit for AP were told to retake the classes again at the University or college of their choice. This is not the same for Dual Enrollment. I will be studying medicine and the two years head start has been an incredible advantage for me.

  10. At my high school, the duel enrollment classes are wieghted, just like an AP class is. Im currently taking duel enrollment classes, and I really enjoy them.

  11. i recommend Dual Enrollment it is great!! its my senior year now and for my spring semester i take General Psychology got a A, American Government got a A, ENC1101 got a A and i got a C in Calculus with analytic Geometry!!! you just have to work hard!!
    Ive been doing DE classes since my 10 grade year in high school and i’m almost finish with my 2 year degree

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