Understanding Dual Enrollment: A Comprehensive Guide for High School Students and Parents

08/05/202312 minute read
Understanding Dual Enrollment: A Comprehensive Guide for High School Students and Parents

Dual enrollment, also called concurrent enrollment, allows students to accumulate college credit while in high school, gaining early exposure to college work with the benefit of cost savings. Given its benefits, it comes with no surprise that dual enrollment is increasing in popularity among high schoolers. As such, this blog post aims to provide an in-depth understanding of dual enrollment, and help high school students and parents make informed decisions.

What is Dual Enrollment?

Dual enrollment allows high schoolers to earn college credits in select courses, while simultaneously enrolled in high school. Dual enrolled students can then apply their earned credits to fulfil both high school and college graduation requirements, getting a headstart in earning a degree.

There are different types of dual enrollment programs available. Some high schools offer dual enrollment classes, allowing students to enrol in additional college classes beyond the high school curriculum. This could come in the form of taking high school classes approved for dual enrollment by various colleges. Other high schools also offer dual enrollment classes, where the students physically attend classes at a tertiary education institute. Alternatively, enrolment in online dual enrollment courses is also a possible option.

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Benefits of Dual Enrollment

The advantages of dual enrollment are substantial. Financially, the attainment of college credits prior to starting college allows one to graduate earlier and save on college tuition, and related expenditure like textbooks and materials.

Academically, dual enrollment allows one to be exposed to college expectations and workload early on, allowing for a smoother progression into college. Attending classes at selected colleges can also serve as a mini ‘Open Day’ - allowing high school students to experience the culture and student life at the particular college.

Dual enrollment can also benefit your personal goals and development. Graduating earlier not only means saving on tuition, but crucially, saving on time. This allows for earlier entry into the workforce, and more time in college to devote to internships and other opportunities for further exposure.

Last but not least, it is imperative to note that embarking on dual enrollment courses could bolster your college applications, in serving as evidence of your initiative and academic ability at a higher level. Further, this presents a valuable opportunity to explore different academic disciplines, allowing for a more  informed decision prior to committing to a major.

In the context of today’s student climate where many are uncertain over their academic and/or career interests, this can prove to be especially valuable.

Potential Challenges of Dual Enrollment

While there are numerous and substantial benefits in taking on dual enrollment, it comes with its fair share of challenges. 

Notably, as it is an added commitment on top of your high school workloads, juggling these commitments can be demanding. Taking on a more rigorous workload can come with a negative effect on your GPA, as dual credits are known to be more challenging - causing a lower cumulative GPA. 

Beyond the potential impediments academically, the additional time devoted to dual enrollment courses can come at the expense of your social life, and extracurricular activities. Unfortunately, we have a scarcity of time, but an infinity of possible commitments we could take on. Time management and prioritisation is therefore of paramount importance, and presents a notable challenge.

Another potential challenge will be imperfect information. Some colleges like those of the Ivy League do not accept these dual credits, and it is thus necessary for high school students to do their research diligently to ensure the transferability of their credits painstakingly attained.

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Factors to Consider Before Joining a Dual Enrollment Program

The importance of assessing individual readiness academically prior to joining a dual enrollment program cannot be overstated. This will help ensure that taking on dual credits does not come at the expense of your ability to stay ahead of your classes, as well as disproportionate trade-offs with other aspects of your life - perhaps socially or recreationally. For instance, you could consider your current workload in high school and how you are coping with respect to your target GPA, prior to embarking on extracurricular commitments like a dual enrollment program.

Do take the time to research the available programs, eligibility criteria, and the transferability of credits to future colleges of your choice to find the one most suited to your needs and goals. This may sound daunting, but you do not have to be alone! Consulting with your high school counsellors and parents will be crucial in helping you to make an informed decision.

It is important to understand the difference between dual enrollment courses and Advanced Placement (AP) classes. The table below compares the two in more detail:

Dual Enrollment vs. Advanced Placement Classes
Dual EnrollmentAdvanced Placement
OrganizerCollegesHigh school
TeacherCollege professorHigh school teacher or self-study
Course LengthUsually one semesterOne year
CreditsCredit upon passing the course examGrade upon taking a standardized exam
Cost~$400$95

Tips for Success in Dual Enrollment Programs

As the age-old axiom goes, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”

Make sure to keep track of all deadlines and plan your revision ahead, to allocate sufficient time to your commitments. As we all know, cramming and last-minute work is far from ideal.

Excelling in dual enrollment programs while juggling high school commitments will require discipline. Specifically, the discipline to execute your planned schedules to the tee, in order to manage your time judiciously.

Next, make sure to take on a subject that you genuinely have an interest in and inclination for. This will help you to be intrinsically motivated to explore and study the subject at this higher level, which can make the process of earning dual credits less taxing and more enjoyable.

As another cliche goes, “Work smart, not hard.” While this may have provoked an eye-roll in response, it is crucial to find study techniques that help you retain and digest the information you study efficiently, and effectively. Studying 10 hours a day is not the point; it is more about how much you can achieve within an hour of revision.

Youtubers like Ali Abdaal, a graduate from Cambridge University, offer great insights and well curated evidenced-based videos about effective study habits like active recall and spaced repetition. These can be incredibly useful to allow students to try these techniques out, and modify or implement them into their study sessions according to their preferences and needs.

Having the initiative to seek help from instructors is also crucial - this will help to prevent you from falling behind further. Be sure to clarify any doubts on the spot, to not let your knowledge gaps snowball over time.

Do also maintain open communication with your high school and college advisors - this will allow them to be on the ball with your progress, and provide you with their insights and advice in a timely fashion. High school life is hectic enough - let others help you where they can, and leverage upon all the resources available to you!

Last but not least, make sure you have a break every now and then - you are a human, not a robot. Even smartphones and electric cars need to be recharged. Pomodoro techniques that alternate between slots of work and break time can be useful in this sense.

On top of juggling your hectic college life and dual enrollment courses, make sure you allocate time to decompress and destress. This is crucial, to prevent burnout and ensure you continue thriving in the program over the long haul. Overworking, contrary to popular belief, can actually be counterproductive.

Conclusion

To conclude, dual enrollment is an excellent avenue for high school students seeking to gain exposure to college level work and graduate early. Discipline and initiative are just some of the required traits to do well on such a program. While it comes with its substantial benefits, one should consider the challenges of juggling it on top of existing high school commitments, as well as the potential costs of negatively impacting one’s GPA. As such, students and parents are strongly encouraged to evaluate and weigh the pros and cons of dual enrollment, to make a final informed decision that best suits their individual needs and goals.

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