Dual Enrollment: What is it & what the benefits are

Everything you need to know about dual enrollment classes

Ever wondered why it seems like some students are moving ahead in college faster than others? Why some of your peers can finish school in 3.5 years rather than 4? It may be that they took some dual enrollment classes in high school to help them get through college quicker. Find out what dual enrollment classes are and how they can benefit you. 

What is dual enrollment?

Dual enrollment is a program that lets high school students take college-level classes—they get both high school and college credit for taking them, too. You can even take dual enrollment classes on college campuses, but they’re often held in high schools. After you graduate high school, you can transfer dual enrollment credits to a college or university.

What are the benefits of dual enrollment?

There are tons of pros to taking dual enrollment courses in high school, and all of them can help you get ahead of the curve.

You could save money. Dual enrollment allows high schoolers to get college credit early at little to no cost, saving them from paying for the class when they’re actually in college. These classes also often cover the cost of books, materials, and other fees, reducing the amount of debt students can rack up in college.

You could save time. If your dual enrollment credits transfer and you’re able to opt out of certain college courses, you could have more time to take elective courses, join campus organizations, have a double major, or get a job or internship.

Transferred credits could help you get ahead academically. Dual enrollment gives students the chance to knock out some required college courses, so they can enter college and potentially graduate early.

You could explore your interests. Students often struggle with picking a major or career path before college, and those who don’t finish college said they needed more support in making these decisions. By having the opportunity to try different classes in a variety of subjects, dual enrollment courses allow students to determine what they like and don’t like with little risk or expense. 

College could become more accessible. The college process isn’t easy, and many families, especially those who are low-income, minorities, or first-generation, may struggle with it. Taking dual enrollment classes could give these students a stronger support system and the guidance they need to find out whether college is the right choice for them. Dual enrollment classes also tend to be more rigorous than standard high school classes, requiring students to learn to be more responsible, enhance their study habits, and improve their time management skills. Preparing before college may help with the challenges of adjusting to college life.

What are the best dual enrollment classes to take?

You should take whatever classes suit your needs. Whether that’s a general course or a niche class specific to your interests, the best class is whichever will help you accomplish your goals. It’s common to take a dual enrollment core class like English, history, math, or science. But there are also schools that offer more focused courses for students who are passionate about particular subjects, like environmental studies, culinary arts, or engineering. 

How does dual enrollment compare to Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) classes?

Many schools offer AP, IB, and dual enrollment classes, and they all serve a similar purpose—but what’s the difference between them all? Here’s the rundown.

Advanced Placement (AP) classes. AP classes are college-level courses exclusively for high school students thanks to The College Board. There are a variety of subjects you can take an AP class for, like American history, English, or psychology to name a few. Students will get high school credit for passing an AP course, but they’ll have to pay for and take an AP exam at the end of the course and receive a score high enough to earn college credit.

International Baccalaureate (IB) classes. Like AP classes, IB classes can be taken individually based on the subject of the student’s choosing, or they can be taken on a larger scale. IB classes are a part of an international program that has offerings for elementary, middle, and high school students. The IB Diploma program for juniors and seniors is an all-encompassing curriculum that even includes community service. After the two-year program, students pay for and take an exam, like with AP classes, and must score high enough to get college credit.

Dual enrollment classes. Dual enrollment classes are college-level courses that give students high school and college credit. These college credits can then be transferred to a college or university of your choice after you graduate.

Why pick dual enrollment over AP and IB classes?

Any of these classes are great options to help you prepare for college, but dual enrollment has a few exclusive perks.

Dual enrollment can be more tailored to your needs.  AP and IB classes have set curricula, allowing little flexibility. For people with interests that don’t fall within the confines of AP and IB’s standard classes, dual enrollment might be for them. You could have a more unique educational experience with dual enrollment classes.

They could be less intense. AP and IB classes are rigorous programs that are notorious for many high-stakes exams throughout the school year, including the final make-or-break exam that determines whether students can get college credit or not. If you have test anxiety, you may find that dual enrollment is more suitable for you.

They can give you a glimpse of college life. Dual enrollment courses are more likely to give you a taste of the college experience than AP or IB classes because some dual enrollment classes are held on college campuses.

Dual enrollment can help you graduate from college sooner. If you want to finish college in under four years, dual enrollment may be the way to go. Dual enrollment is more likely to let students finish college in less than four years. AP or IB credit typically gets students out of taking introductory courses, but they could earn dual enrollment college credits that are worth more than one course. 

Pick the class for you

No matter what path you want to take after high school, taking dual enrollment classes is never a bad idea. From saving money to saving time, dual enrollment can help make you a better student and help you get a jumpstart on college. Find out if your high school has dual enrollment options for you.

footnote Sallie Mae does not provide, and these materials are not meant to convey, financial, tax, or legal advice. Consult your own financial advisor, tax advisor, or attorney about your specific circumstances.

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