Exploring Dual Enrollment Programs

What is “dual enrollment”?


Many of you who read our blog regularly are middle and high school students who have plans to attend to college, hopefully at a top college or university. So it’s likely that you already know about Advanced Placement (AP) courses in which you can earn both high school and college credit.

Such courses are particularly advantageous for high-achieving, low-income students because they are both academically challenging and could save money later on by helping students finish their college degrees more quickly. The problem is that not every school offers AP courses, particularly those with fewer resources.

But did you know current high school students can often get a head start on a bachelor’s degree by dual enrolling in a class at a nearby college as well?

Dual enrollment (DE) is an option many high schools offer by partnering with an institution of higher education, frequently a local community college. Basically, DE students are high school juniors or seniors who take one or more courses at a partner college or university while still attending high school part-time.

Their DE courses count for both high school and college credit (which is why it is considered “dual” enrollment). Students are able to get a taste of college life while still taking some high school courses, participating in extracurricular activities and seeing their friends to enjoy the typical teenage social life.

Why should I take advantage of a dual enrollment option?

There are many reasons to take a DE class or classes. While it’s not for everyone, many of you are high achievers who are the perfect fit.  Studies have found that students who participate in dual enrollment programs are more likely to eventually earn a college degree. Here are a few other reasons you should consider:

  • You can accumulate college credits at low cost or no cost.
  • With DE, you will work toward earning your college credits all semester long rather than have a single chance to pass an AP exam for credit.
  • You may want to take college-level coursework, but AP classes are not offered at your school. DE is a perfect alternative.
  • Or perhaps the AP courses offered at your school aren’t in the subject area of interest. You can try collegiate subjects like philosophy or anthropology, and that may help you make better informed choices when the time comes to pick a major.
  • You can also get a much better look at what college is all about. While AP classes are taught by high school teachers, through DE classes you will typically work with actual college professors, have college undergraduates for classmates, and have access to college resources.

How can I get involved in a dual enrollment program?

You should explore your options ahead of time and create a plan. Below are some factors to think about:

  • Talk to your school’s guidance counselor to see what programs are available.
  • If there are costs associated with your school’s DE program, search for scholarships.
  • You will likely need transportation to and from campus. If you don’t drive or have access to a car, is public transportation available?
  • Do you have the necessary time management skills?  Splitting time between high school and college can be overwhelming without careful planning and hard work.
  • Check with your guidance counselor and the colleges and universities you’re interested in attending about credits being transferrable. Not all schools accept duel credits earned. It’s a case-by-case basis, although the likelihood is better between schools within the same state. Regardless, dual enrollment courses will still be impressive on your college applications and are a worthwhile experience on many other levels.
  • Many colleges require you to apply for admission even if you have been accepted by your high school’s DE program. Get a head start on that.