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How to Get Ahead & Save Money with Dual Enrollment Courses

two college doors

This post is from a student, parent, or professional contributor. The opinions expressed by the author are their own and do not necessarily reflect the positions, viewpoints, or policies of Niche.

Did you know you can start earning college credits while still in high school?

It’s true, and it’s called dual enrollment, also known as concurrent enrollment.

Dual enrollment courses allow students to enroll in two separate, but academically related, institutions.

Usually offered by community colleges, these courses are a good way to acclimate to college academics, earn credits in core or major courses, save money on college tuition and, perhaps, graduate from college sooner. 

Check with your school counselor or academic advisor to see if your high school offers dual enrollment and if it’s a good fit for you.

Typically, you’ll need a minimum 2.5 GPA and be at least 16 years old. The dual enrollment college may also require signed paperwork from a parent/guardian and your principal/school counselor.

Sound like something you’re into?

Good.

Here are a handful of pros and cons to help you weigh your decision on whether dual enrollment is a good choice for you.

Perks to Dual Enrollment

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Gives you a head start.

If you already have an idea of a career path and you see there is a lot of required coursework ahead, an early start may be nice.

For example, a Ph.D. in medicine could take up to 10-14 years to complete, so knocking off a few extra classes while still in high school could be ideal.

 

Helps pinpoint academic interest.

Colleges have more subject-specific courses, so if one piques your interest, take it and you could figure out whether you really do want to pursue that major or career.

However, most advisors still tell students to take only core classes. That way, if you decide to change majors or career paths, the credits you earn won’t go to waste. 

Develops college-level academic skills.

Make no mistake: These courses are college level courses.

Their rigor can help students develop good study, research, test-taking, communication and organization habits. They can also help students feel more confident when entering college, because they have already experienced and are familiar with the expectations compared to high school classes.

Looks good to college admissions officers.

Colleges consider whether a student has taken Advanced Placement (AP) and dual enrollment courses, because doing so demonstrates a student has college-level skills. It also shows whether her or she is proactive about attaining higher education.

These classes can be another way admissions can measure success just like the ACT/SAT tests. 

Saves money on college tuition. 

This is a biggie.

According to Educationaldata.org, the tuition average at a four-year public university is $396 per credit hour, which is about $1,188 per course. At a private, non-profit university, it costs an average of  $1,492 per credit hour, or $4,476 per course. At a community college, which where/how most dual enrollment courses take place, averages $142 per credit hour, or $426 per course.

Yep. Dual enrollment can save you hundreds even thousands of dollars.

It’s still enough to ask, given most colleges won’t give federal financial aid for dual enrollment courses. But a scholarship might still be a possibility. Always ask the college/your high school if there are any alternative ways they suggest to fund the additional expense. 

Allows you to graduate earlier and register for courses earlier.

Understanding academic coursework sequence is very important when planning academic goals. Think of planning a coursework sequence like writing a grocery list: The store offers a lot of options but there only certain items you actually need.

Every certificate, whether that be high school, undergraduate, or graduate school, has certain requirements.

By completing those required classes earlier, you could be eligible to complete your certificate sooner.

And when it comes to registering for classes in undergraduate school, the process is typically based on class standing. So the more credits you have, the higher your class standing, and the sooner you can get the classes you want and need to graduate.

Downsides to DE

down orange arrowMay be more academically demanding and/or interfere with extracurriculars.

Assignments may require more attention and time since they are theoretically more rigorous than high school courses. And that could cut into the time and energy you want to spend on extracurriculars.

Plus, if the class requires in-person attendance or is synchronous with a specific meeting time, then the commute/class meeting may occur during regular school hours, club meetings, or sport practices.

If you choose DE courses over the after-school stuff, you may miss out on things that are equally important to an enjoyable high school experience and your college application. 

Credits may not transfer.

Do your research.

Public, in-state colleges are more likely to accept dual-enrollment credits than private colleges or out-of-state colleges, according to Savingforcollege.com. But while many schools will accept DE coursework just fine, a majority of ivy league schools do not accept dual enrollment courses. 

A good way to check if the credits will transfer is to contact your target college’s registrar. 

AP courses may be a better, more affordable option.

Just because dual enrollment classes cost less than the four-year college’s tuition rate, they still aren’t cheap.

By comparison, taking an AP class may be more financially preferable since they cost about $93 (which can be lower if you meet certain criteria), according to College Board.

Poor grades might harm your admissions appeal.

Depending on the high school, but on average, dual enrollment grades are factored into a student’s high school GPA.

Poor grades can potentially hurt your GPA, which could affect the attractiveness of your college application to admissions officers. 

If you commit to dual enrollment, be invested.

And if you feel you’re in too deep, note your college’s drop/withdrawal policy to avoid being charged tuition or receiving an incomplete/withdrawal for the class. 


A Personal Take on Dual Enrollment

At times, I do wish I had taken more AP/Dual Enrollment classes in high school to some time.

But as a performing arts major, I wanted to focus more on strengthening my dancing, and it has not affected my college experience drastically for me not to have taken more.

Earning extra college credits early could have inadvertently undermined my college experience.

One of my friends took so many, they completed all their core classes and only had major classes to fulfill. Although they did have more time to focus on their major and the opportunity to earn another major or minor.

This, in a way, gave them a disadvantage, because everyone at the school takes core classes. My core classes ended up being some of my favorites because I got to meet other students and professors outside my major. 

Enjoy your senior year and don’t overload yourself, because of how stressful it can be to research and apply to college to begin with. By taking charge of your academic coursework, you can feel more confident about your future, and if you don’t have everything figured out right now, that’s alright too. 

Author: Rosalie Anthony

Rosalie is currently attending Point Park University earning her Dance- B.F.A degree with a minor in French. Previously, she attended and graduated from the Alabama School of Fine Arts in dance. She is passionate about learning, teaching and mentoring. In her spare time, she enjoys working out, chatting with friends, and discovering new places to go in Pittsburgh.