How Does Dual Enrollment Work?

Dual Enrollment

Students may not know that there is a way to earn college credit while they’re still in high school. Dual enrollment programs let high school students take advantage of courses at local higher learning institutions, like a community college. Concurrent enrollment may be another option. These are courses that let students earn college credit through courses taught by high school teachers who are approved by the college. Both options let students earn college credit before they officially head off to college.  If the idea of getting a head start on your college education is appealing, a dual or concurrent enrollment program may be right choice for you. 

What is Dual Enrollment?

Dual Enrollment, sometimes referred to as Dual Credit, is a program that allows students to earn college credit by taking college-level courses in high school. Dual Credit classes vary by state and may be offered via a partnership with your high school and a local community college. 

Many times, you can choose to take dual enrollment courses online or at your high school. If you have to go to your local community college to take the course, be sure to factor in those outside-of-school hours when making your course choices.  

Every school has different course offerings, but they are typical intro or 101-type classes that would need to be completed in your first year of college. Many colleges will accept dual enrollment courses and waive the corresponding introduction course, so you are not taking them twice. 

What are the Requirements for Dual Enrollment?

Certain standards must be met before a student can enroll in dual enrollment courses. Every state has a unique set of guidelines, so be sure you check those for your specific state. 

Specific course requirements also vary, but many states allow 10-12th graders to enroll in dual enrollment courses, but be aware that there may be a minimum GPA requirement, typically 3.0 or higher. 

Where Can You Take Dual Credit Courses?

Where you take classes is dependent on your specific state mandates as well was the arrangement between your high school and community college. If your school allows dual enrollment courses to be taught at the high school itself, then it just becomes part of your normal school schedule.

In some cases, though, the courses require you to commute daily to your local community college, and this would extend your day as they are usually before or after normal high school hours. Online classes may also be an option and it is always best to take meet with your high school counselor to see which of these options is offered by your school.

Why Enroll in Dual Credit Courses?

There are many advantages to enrolling in dual credit courses, including:

  • The courses are real college classes. This gives you an idea of what college course work is really like and helps prepare you for the workload and expectations.
  • There may be unique classes that are only available through the dual enrollment program.
  • Many in-state colleges accept your dual credit courses as college credit, but you typically must meet a certain grade standard. Be sure to check the requirements at your college of choice. 
  • Dual enrollment demonstrates that you are capable of handling college-level coursework and shows colleges you are serious about the next step in your education.
  • If it is free to take dual credit courses at your school, this is by far the cheapest way to gain college credit.
  • Unlike AP classes, there is no testing requirement to gain college credit through dual enrollment classes.

Can You Earn a Degree Through Dual Enrollment?

Quite simply, no. There just are not enough classes offered in a specific academic field through the dual credit program to even let a student earn an associate’s degree. While there may be other programs available at your local community college that would let you earn a degree while in high school, dual enrollment programs almost never have that option.

It is worth noting, however, that while you can’t earn a degree through dual enrollment classes, those classes can help you determine what direction you want to take in college and even guide you to choose your major.  These college-level courses will be the best indicator of whether you enjoy studying a particular subject, so it is critical to be really mindful while you’re taking these courses and examine whether you could really delve into each particular subject for four years.

Are there Any Disadvantages?

Overall, the Dual Enrollment Program is a win-win both logistically and financially. To ensure you are making an informed decision, there are a few potential downsides that you should be aware of:

  • Colleges do not always accept dual enrollment courses; this is especially true for an out-of-state student.
  • If they are not offered at your actual school location, dual credit courses require you to travel to a community college early in the morning or late at night. You may be spending a lot of extra time at school beyond normal school hours and this should be factored in when thinking about extracurricular activities, sports schedules, etc. 
  • As mentioned above, dual credit courses are real college classes. They give you a feel for what a college workload really is, which also means they come with the demands and intensity of real college classes. It is crucial that you are realistic about your ability to handle dual enrollment courses plus your regular high school course load and other activities.

If you’re interested in the dual enrollment program, start by making an appointment with your guidance counselor as soon as possible to discuss what your specific options are. They will know what the requirements are, what classes are available, and how you would have to take them (are they online, at your high school, or at a community college?). 

Dual enrollment is a superb option for you if you’re looking for the cheapest and potentially easiest way to earn college credit in high school. You will be able to experience college-level coursework while potentially earning college credit at the same time. If you’re interested in taking dual enrollment courses, talk to your guidance counselor as soon as possible to know all of your options and get started with the right program. 

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