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What is Dual Enrollment?

By Zach Skillings

Zach Skillings is the Scholarships360 Newsletter Editor. He specializes in college admissions and strives to answer important questions about higher education. When he’s not contributing to Scholarships360, Zach writes about travel, music, film, and culture. His work has been published in Our State Magazine, Ladygunn Magazine, The Nocturnal Times, and The Lexington Dispatch. Zach graduated from Elon University with a degree in Cinema and Television Arts.

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Reviewed by Caitlyn Cole

Caitlyn Cole is a college access professional with a decade of experience in non-profit program and project management for college readiness and access organizations.

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Edited by Maria Geiger

Maria Geiger is Director of Content at Scholarships360. She is a former online educational technology instructor and adjunct writing instructor. In addition to education reform, Maria’s interests include viewpoint diversity, blended/flipped learning, digital communication, and integrating media/web tools into the curriculum to better facilitate student engagement. Maria earned both a B.A. and an M.A. in English Literature from Monmouth University, an M. Ed. in Education from Monmouth University, and a Virtual Online Teaching Certificate (VOLT) from the University of Pennsylvania.

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Updated: November 29th, 2023
What is Dual Enrollment?

For high school students looking to take more advanced courses or get ahead on college requirements, dual enrollment is an excellent option. College professors teach these courses either on campus or online. 

Dual enrollment programs are a great way for students to save on college tuition costs and become familiar with the rigor of college-level courses. However, dual enrollment may not be right for every student depending on their class schedule and workload. 

Related: Why should I earn college credit in high school?

How dual enrollment works 

Below, we’ll discuss how dual enrollment works along with its benefits and drawbacks. 

Eligibility 

Eligibility for dual enrollment varies by state, but usually candidates must be at least 16 years old, at least a sophomore in high school, and maintain a minimum 2.5 – 3.0 GPA. Candidates might need minimum ACT and SAT scores and meet the entrance requirements set by the college. Additionally, students often have to obtain permission from their parents and guardians to enroll in the class. 

Awarding credit 

To earn college credit, students must pass dual enrollment courses with a C or better. However, it is important to know that not all colleges accept dual enrollment credits. Before taking a dual enrollment class, students should research their options and meet with their high school counselor to ensure a dual enrollment class will be worth their time. 

Course length 

Dual enrollment courses typically last for one semester. This means students can complete their course and earn credit within half the amount of time of a typical school year. 

Cost

Dual enrollment programs are financed in different ways, depending on where a student lives. Some states pay for the classes, while in some states the student or parent is primarily responsible for covering the cost of tuition. Because the cost varies depending on location, dual enrollment courses can range from $0 to $400

Benefits of dual enrollment 

Earn college credits

The most obvious advantage of dual enrollment classes is that they allow students to start accumulating college credits while still enrolled in high school. Students are able to get a head start on college requisites and ensure they graduate on time or even early. 

Also see: How to Graduate College in Three Years: Everything You Need to Know

Cost-effective 

Dual enrollment courses are a great way to earn college credit while saving on tuition costs. As we’ve discussed, dual enrollment courses can cost up to $400, which is significantly less than the cost of an average college course. According to Education Data, the average American college charges in-state students $390 per course credit and out-of-state students $1,126 per course credit. The savings here are tremendous, especially when you consider the fact that dual enrollment courses are sometimes even free!

Related: Why Should I Earn College Credit in High School? 

Academic preparation 

Dual enrollment classes give high school students a taste of college coursework and help prepare them for the rigors of a post-secondary education. The transition from high school to college is often smoother because students are not overwhelmed by the increased workload and new environment. 

Major exploration 

Dual enrollment programs allow high school students to sample a variety of academic subjects before going to college and declaring a major. Students may even discover new academic interests that they would like to pursue in college. 

Demonstrate ability 

Dual enrollment classes demonstrate a student’s ability to handle a complex workload, which is helpful when trying to stand out during the college admissions process. College admissions officers often use this information as a predictor of student success. It should be noted, however, that not all colleges value dual enrollment classes equally. In fact, some colleges prefer students who have taken AP or IB courses over students who have taken dual enrollment courses. 

Social Benefits

In addition to the academic and financial benefits of dual enrollment, there can also be social benefits for students who are taking dual enrollment classes on a campus. In these situations, students will have the chance to learn to navigate a college campus, meet new people, and get a taste of what it’s like to be in a college classroom which can be a very different vibe from a high school classroom.  

Also see: What classes should I take senior year?

Drawbacks of dual enrollment 

Not all colleges accept credit

There’s no guarantee the college you attend after graduating high school will accept your credits. Many colleges may not consider competing colleges’ courses to be equivalent in content and difficulty. Selective colleges may limit the number of dual enrollment transfer credits they accept or simply deny them entirely. As such, it’s crucial to do your research and meet with your school counselor before taking a dual enrollment course. 

Difficulty Level 

Dual enrollment courses are oftentimes more rigorous than high school classes. They are college-level courses that require more time spent studying and working on assignments. If you’re already struggling with a difficult academic schedule, enrolling in a higher level class may not be the best idea. 

However, it’s important to note that the difficulty level of dual enrollment courses can vary greatly depending on the class, the instructor, and the institution. In fact, some dual enrollment classes, especially those taught at community colleges, are not considered as rigorous as AP or IB courses. If your goal is an academic challenge, consult your school counselor to discuss the specific dual enrollment courses you’re considering. 

Schedule Conflicts

Dual enrollment courses usually meet in the early morning or late evening. This can interfere with students’ schedules and require them to spend more time in class outside of normal school hours. Students may have to sacrifice some of the time they would usually devote to extracurricular activities such as clubs and sports. Additionally, it may be difficult for students to coordinate transportation to and from the college campus for in-person college courses. 

Related: How to Choose the Best Online College

Is dual enrollment right for me?

As you can see, there are a variety of factors to consider when thinking about enrolling in college classes. Many students find that the advantages of earning college credit while still in high school outweigh the potential drawbacks. Other students are simply not ready to add a college level course to their busy schedule. 

It’s important to evaluate the big picture when deciding if dual enrollment fits into your academic goals. If you think dual enrollment might be right for you, consider making an appointment with your school counselor to discuss your options. 

Also see: How many AP classes should I take in high school?

More resources for students

After working out your schedule, you can start preparing for college in other ways! Scholarships360 offers a wealth of resources for every step of the college admissions process. That includes writing college essays, finding the right school, and deciding on a major. Good luck with the process and make sure to check back on our site to help you with any other questions. Be sure to apply for all the scholarships you qualify for while you are eligible! 

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Frequently asked questions about dual enrollment

What’s the difference between dual enrollment and AP?

Dual enrollment and Advanced Placement (AP) classes are both college-level courses available to high school students who want to earn college credit. Dual enrollment courses are taught by college professors, either on campus or online. In contrast, AP classes are taught at high schools by high school teachers. The College Board designs AP Classes as college-level courses to teach in high schools. 

Some students prefer AP classes because they’re more convenient. The credits earned are more widely accepted by colleges, and they’re sometimes more rigorous than dual enrollment courses. Meanwhile, other students choose to take dual enrollment courses to study subjects unavailable at their high school. Some students like getting a feel for taking classes at a college campus.  

Does dual enrollment look good on college applications?

Dual enrollment courses can sometimes help students stand out during the college admissions process. Because colleges emphasize academic rigor, admissions officers are impressed by students who challenge themselves and are successful in dual enrollment courses.

However, this is not always the case. Colleges evaluate the strength of dual enrollment courses differently depending on their specific academic standards. AP courses sometimes look more impressive to admissions officers than dual enrollment classes. 

Do I have to pay for dual enrollment courses?

  Some states or institutions may offer dual enrollment at reduced or no cost, while others may require students to pay tuition and fees. However, financial assistance may be available such as scholarships or grants to help cover the costs.

Can dual enrollment courses count towards high school requirements?

  Yes, in many cases, dual enrollment courses can fulfill high school graduation requirements such as core subject credits. However, policies differ between high schools so it’s important that you double check with your high school’s policies regarding dual enrollment.

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