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.
Filed under: Admissions, Applications, College, College Admissions, College Search Process, Dual enrollment, Education, Family, GPA, Grades, High School, Life, Parents, University Tagged: | admission, Advanced Placement, College, credit, Dual enrollment, international baccalaureate, University