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Dual Enrollment vs. AP Classes: Why I Think Dual Enrollment is Better

The back of three students heads who sit in the back row of a classroom.

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.

High school is a pivotal time in which you can make certain decisions that will affect your career. That’s right. Your career!

I know how you feel: the thought of making semi-permanent decisions at a tender age can be scary, but I promise it doesn’t have to be. There are certain avenues that you can and should take to make navigating your future a little easier.

One of those decisions is deciding the type of classes you take throughout your high school career. 

You may have heard of Advanced Placement courses, aka AP’s. For those of you who may not have heard of AP’s, these classes are college-level courses and exams that you take in high school that can serve as a benefit to your college application and overall college experience.

According to CollegeBoard, AP’s “give you an advantage in college by letting you earn college credit and placement, save money and time, stand out to colleges, and allow you to keep your options.”

While all of this is true, what they fail to explain is how scoring for the AP exams work and how that can translate to whether or not a college will take the credit or if you will receive the credit at all.

After taking an AP course, you have to take a cumulative exam that is graded on a scale from 1-5. While many U.S. colleges grant credit and allow you to skip an equivalent course once you get to college, you have to get a certain grade on the exam in order for it to transfer.

Most colleges want you to receive a 3 or higher in order for the credit to be granted, and for more prestigious universities they may want to see 4’s or higher.

The unfortunate part is if you do not get the needed grade on the test, that credit will not be taken and essentially, taking that class would have been a waste of time and energy.

This not only affects your high school experience but also your college one since you’ll have to retake that class once you enter university. 

You may be wondering: well if that’s the case, what are my alternatives? Lucky for you, I am going to tell you: dual enrollment classes.

Dual enrollment happens when a student is enrolled at two academic institutions simultaneously, typically a high school and a college. There are some high schools like the one I attended (Brooklyn College Academy) that are affiliated with a college where a program has already been established for students to take college classes as part of their high school requirement.

Through this program, students are able to take college classes alongside their high school classes and rack up college credits. They receive a college transcript from the institution that can be sent to the colleges they apply to in their senior year in order to have credits transferred.

How To Get Ahead With Dual Enrollment Courses

To quickly tell my own story, I started taking college classes in my sophomore year of high school. I was able to take a wide range of classes that didn’t just apply to general education requirements but applied to my major and divisional requirements once I started college.

I graduated high school with 58.5 college credits and started at Howard University as a second-semester sophomore who was able to start my major immediately. I essentially skipped two years of college which saved time and thousands of dollars.

Unlike AP’s, you have a higher chance of having your credits transferred when you do dual enrollment. Most schools require that you get at least a C in a class for the credit to count which can arguably be easier to get than a 4 or 5 on an AP exam.

You also have a wider variety of classes to take when taking dual enrollment as opposed to AP’s. With this advantage, your mind and knowledge is not only widened, but you’ll also be able to knock out more classes and time in college. 

I’m sure you’re probably excited now about taking dual enrollment but may be thinking: I didn’t go to an early college high school like you did. I don’t have access to a program like that. Well, you’re actually incorrect.

Your high school may not have the program that mine did, but you absolutely have access to college classes. You can have your parent(s) enroll you at a local 2 or 4 year school where you can take college classes. Don’t worry! The cost may not be too bad.

Many colleges during winter and summer months offer programs where you can take 3 college classes (9 credits) in just a 3 week period for fair prices. Through these programs, you can take college classes during your breaks and not only have productive winter or summer breaks but also be furthering your education!

If you want even more academic security, you can still take AP’s during the school year if you so choose. For those of you who may already have a concrete plan of what you would like to pursue when you go to college and what institution you’d like to attend, you can research and check out your program’s scheme.

Every major/program at a university has a scheme that a student will have to follow in order to fulfill their requirements for graduation. By looking at what classes you’d have to take, you could try to enroll for those classes while in high school and give yourself less work to do once you get to college.

Your best bet is to knock out general education requirements so that once you start college, you can get straight into your major! It’s important to take general education requirements and not classes that are too specific because those may not transfer.

However, gen-ed classes are accepted at pretty much any university as long as it came from an accredited 2 or 4 year institution. Gen-ed classes typically consist of things like English, Math, Science, and History. These are the types of classes you may want to look more into so that you can avoid them in college. 

Taking dual enrollment courses instead of AP’s will overall benefit you more because dual enrollment makes it possible for you to go beyond your high school curriculum, advance to higher levels in various subjects, explore subjects not offered in the AP program, and allow for you to experience college classes on an actual college campus.

You have more to fall back on regarding having the grades for the credit to transfer. If you are at a school where both are offered, I would strongly suggest doing dual enrollment. If you are at a school where only AP’s are offered, take them, but consider taking some gen-ed classes at a college near you for more security in the event your AP exams don’t go too well.

Remember, there are always options when it comes to your high school and college journeys, and it’s about choosing the best one for you! 

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Author: Elise Blake

Hello!! My name is Elise Blake and I am currently a junior political science major with a concentration in pre-law, and a minor in legal communications at the ILLUSTRIOUS Howard University. My goal for this blog is to shed light on all things afro-centric that matter in the realm of college as well as just simply giving you all as much knowledge as I can. I am looking forward to sharing with you all my experiences and giving out any tips/advice that I believe will be useful to you!