Reviewed by Julie Vandekreke
What is dual enrollment, and is it something aspiring college students should do? If you are a high school student who wants to get some or all of your college core courses completed by the time you graduate high school, there are several things you'll need to do to get started.
You'll want to know exactly what your state requires -- minimum GPA, the number of courses or hours you can take, whether or not the college or university you want to attend accepts all or only some of your courses and much, much more.
The requirements can be quite different from state to state. Not all colleges and universities unconditionally will accept your courses for credit. We have some resources for you to read that will help you figure out what your state requires and how you can start the dual enrollment process.
What Does Dual Enrollment Mean?
According to the U.S. Department of Education, dual enrollment is defined as "...students enroll in postsecondary coursework while also enrolled in high school..."or put another way, it is when high school students (usually juniors and seniors) earn college credits while enrolled in separate courses that are not part of their high school curriculum. This is known as concurrent enrollment. You may also see "early college" as a way to describe dual enrollment.
"Dual credit" refers to students who earn academic credits at two institutions -- their high school and a college or university that participates in dual enrollment programs.
Some typical classes that are offered for dual enrollment courses include:
If you are a home-schooled student and are interested in dual enrollment classes, you're also eligible to take them, as long as you meet all of your state's requirements.
Why Should I Consider Dual Enrollment?
There are several reasons why high school students should work with their parents and school to participate in dual enrollment programs. These benefits include:
- Getting multiple credits either at a reduced cost or free, depending upon state programs
- Save money on tuition costs, which will reduce total student debt for college grads
- Allow economically disadvantaged students the opportunity to take college level courses through state programs-- an opportunity they might not otherwise have
- The college classes high school students take may transfer to higher education institutions, depending upon the school
- High school students who complete college classes that are accepted for graduation requirements could graduate early and get a head start in beginning their careers
- Many college classes are offered online, so if the college or university you are interested in is not within driving distance, you can still take their classes
According to Jackie Weisman, a Director of Communications & Marketing at Maryland Board of Education, " I was a dual enrollment student as a high school junior and senior at Chesapeake Community College and I truly feel like it gave me a leg up on the 'college experience'. I remember at the time feeling like I was being given a taste of what college would be like from registering, purchasing books and actually attending and successfully completing the classes."
However, there can be some drawbacks to participating in dual enrollment programs:
- Students who are heavily involved in athletics or other extracurricular activities may find they don't have enough time to do well in college courses
- Not completing, or getting a poor grade in an advanced courses are part of the high school transcript; this could negatively impact the student's ability to get accepted at the college of her choice
- Depending upon the school, dual enrollment courses may not be accepted for credit; without doing some research into the courses and the schools a student wants to attend, this could end up wasting time taking classes that won't count
- High school teachers who teach college courses may not be as qualified as professors at the college or university level; your knowledge may not be as in-depth at the end of the course.
It seems like participating in dual enrollment programs carry some risk! However, this article goes over the basics at a high level, and there are resources you can research and find out exactly what the requirements are for your state and school. Before you commit to completing college courses, be honest with yourself and look at your school schedule and lifestyle.
Do you have the time, energy and motivation to commit to taking dual enrollment courses? Is tutoring help available in case you get stuck on understanding course concepts?
If you said "Yes" to this, then read on!
Who Is Eligible To Take Dual Enrollment Courses?
According to the Education Commission of the States, most states require potential dual enrollment participants to be in either the 10th or the 11th grade. However, some states waive this requirement if a student is considered to be gifted. Several states require a minimum GPA, including Alabama, Florida and Louisiana. Some of these specify a GPA of 2.0 out of 4.0.
States like Hawaii, California and New Mexico require written approval and recommendation from school officials for dual enrollment participation. Students in Oregon, Ohio and Kentucky must meet post secondary admission requirements before being allowed to take dual enrollment courses. These requirements may vary from college to college, so you'll need to work with the appropriate admissions office to get specifics.
How Do I Get Started On Attending Dual Enrollment Courses?
The process varies from state-to-state. In general, students should discuss their interest with parents and school officials. Multiple states require minimum scores on tests like PSAT, ACT or college placement tests. These states include Arizona, Louisiana and Mississippi. Other states do not have documented processes, so students in these states Alaska, Georgia and the District of Columbia.
Open enrollment is not an option. Threshold requirements exist to ensure students have the best possible chance of successfully completing course requirements to earn a passing grade.
Is There A Limit On Dual Enrollment Courses I Can Take?
There are wildly varying limits, depending upon which state the student is in. In general, the caps on taking dual enrollment classes tend to be high, so it would be difficult to max out for most high school students. Some states have no set state policy, such as Alabama, Delaware, Missouri, Nebraska and Arkansas. Florida states a student must be enrolled to earn at least 12 credit hours, but not more than 15 per semester. Iowa caps the number at 24 semester hours per academic year. Minnesota does not define hours, but defines caps in course work years.
How Are Grades Calculated For Dual Enrollment Courses?
It is up to individual school districts to develop and apply a weighted grade or score on high school transcripts. Examples include Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina. Before enrolling in dual courses, review the grading/weighting/scoring criteria and methods with your individual school district. You should also discuss course grading with the college/university admissions offices you are considering applying to.
How Hard Are Dual Enrollment Courses?
If you already have completed challenging high school courses, you should feel confident about tackling college class work for dual enrollment purposes. However, unlike high school, where you go to class everyday, most college and university courses only meet once or twice a week. In between times, you are expected to read and understand large amounts of textbook content, so you'll need to budget time during the day and evening to keep up with the course pace.
If the textbook is hard to understand, you will need to make time to email or call the professor, or find a tutor to help you. Tutoring will cost extra money, so consider how you would accomplish this.
Another consideration for college courses is that you may have fewer projects to complete, but each one has a large percentage of your final grade. If you miss one major assignment, this could cause you to fail the class. This is not to discourage you from participating, but be realistic in your time and expectations.
Does Taking Dual Enrollment Courses Help Me During The Admissions Process?
If you're considering taking dual enrollment classes, you need to research the admissions process for the colleges or universities you are interested in. For example, some colleges consider dual enrollment courses to be "double dipping." If you don't carefully research before taking the classes, you could find that your time and energy would have been better spent doing other things!
Are you a student athlete who wants to compete in your sport at the college or university level? There are NCAA considerations you need to understand. For example, if you want to take classes at a community college, but plan on attending a major university, those community college credits may impact your eligibility to play competitively. In addition, those credits may not be accepted for graduation purposes at the larger college or university. Again, doing some research and asking questions ahead of time may save you from being negatively impacted.
On the other hand, taking college courses while in high school casts you in a favorable light, because you've shown motivation and initiative in demonstrating how committed you are to getting a college education.
Kristen Moon of Moon Prep LLC said " As an independent college counselor, I always get the questions: "Will this help me with the admissions process? The answer is yes. Dual enrollment programs show initiative on the part of the student. It also shows a love of learning and an eagerness to challenge yourself. With the college admissions process more competitive than ever, students need an edge and dual enrollment can provide one."
Some Final Words On Dual Enrollment Courses
You can see there are many advantages and benefits to researching on, planning for and completing dual enrollment courses. Here's how you do it:
- Talk to your school officials and find out everything you need to do in order to qualify for taking dual enrollment classes
- Research the colleges and universities you're considering applying to -- get in-depth information from the admissions offices on whether or not credits fully transfer and if you are impacting your eligibility requirements by taking dual enrollment classes
- Look at your schedule to see if you can budget enough time to successfully take and pass dual enrollment classes
- If everything looks right for your situation, enroll and attend classes
- Looking to know more about your state's requirements, here's an in-depth guide that breaks down eligibility requirements for each state.
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