What Is Dual Enrollment and How Does It Work?

Connections Academy student working online through her dual enrollment courses.

Many high schoolers and their parents are looking for ways to get a head start on college. From planning visits to completing applications, there are so many paths your student can take. If you don’t know where to start, dual enrollment courses could be a great option. But, there are important questions to consider: Do colleges prefer dual enrollment? And, what is the difference between dual enrollment and AP®* courses?  

If your student is considering dual enrollment, read on for useful information they should know before pursuing dual credit programs over other options.

What is Dual Enrollment?

So, what is dual enrollment? Dual enrollment programs allow students to take college classes while they’re still enrolled in high school. These classes count for both high school and college credit. High school students who complete dual enrollment may need to take fewer classes in college due to earning transferable college credit. 

A high school student researching the difference between dual enrollment and AP courses.

How Is Dual Enrollment Different from Advanced Placement and Honors Courses?

Honors Classes

Honors classes differ from school to school, but at the core of it, they are higher-level classes that go at a faster pace and cover more material than standard high school classes. Because these courses are more academically challenging, they may assist students in receiving greater academic recognition and could even help secure college scholarships.   

Though students don’t receive college credit, honors courses are designed for them to experience a more challenging curriculum. These classes are also available to students at every grade level in high school, whereas dual enrollment programs are typically reserved for college-bound juniors and seniors. 

A high school student taking AP classes.

The Pros and Cons of Dual Enrollment

When determining whether or not your student should pursue dual enrollment, it’s best to weigh the pros and cons. Here’s an overview of some of the advantages and disadvantages:  

Advantages

1. Challenging Coursework

When students opt to take dual enrollment courses, they’re exposed to rigorous courses that aren’t typically offered in high school. Many students enter college undecided about what to study. So not only does dual enrollment assist with expanding their learning, it introduces them to courses that align with their interests. That could lead to students identifying their career choice or declaring a major early on.   

Having access to higher-level classes can also help students set better academic goals. When they receive hands-on experience, they can use the skills learned in dual enrollment in their regular high school setting. Whether online school or brick-and-mortar, dual enrollment can assist students with staying organized and focused on their curriculum.  

3. Accelerated Education

Students who utilize dual enrollment are often able to graduate college earlier than anticipated. Since students begin earning college credit while still in high school, they can enter college with their prerequisites completed or halfway done. This shortens their graduation timeline and allows them more opportunities to explore electives and even double majors.  

Students might also have more time to explore internships, social clubs, and volunteer work—all of which can help them identify their talents and make connections that will further their career

A high school student in an accelerated education program.

Disadvantages 

2. Greater Expectations

If your child attends virtual school, chances are they’re used to managing their education independently. Unlike traditional schools where the teacher is monitoring your student’s work by the hour, Connections Academy students will often complete assignments on their own without the physical presence of an instructor.   

That said, your child’s ability to juggle a busy schedule should be considered before making a decision. Whether your student is in a traditional or online high school, figuring out how to alter their schedule could be a difficult task for them to take on.   

Additionally, the coursework is more challenging, and students will be graded based on their performance. With that, students who choose to enroll in dual enrollment courses have to be committed to putting in extra work to complete assignments and receive a passing grade.  

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