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Dual Credit Courses: A Head Start to Your College Journey

Are you a high school student looking to get ahead in your education? Dual enrollment might be the perfect option for you. Dual enrollment programs allow high school students like you to take college-level courses and earn college credit before getting to college. In this blog, we will explore the benefits and drawbacks of dual enrollment, compare it to other options like Honors, AP, and IB, and provide some useful tips for students considering dual enrollment. Let's dive in!

What is Dual Enrollment?

Dual enrollment is a fantastic opportunity for high school students to take college courses and receive college credit. According to the U.S. Department of Education, more than 85% of U.S. public high schools have some number of dual credit course offerings. However, only 34% of U.S. students take college courses in high school, meaning that although it is widely accessible, lots of students are missing out on the chance to earn college credit. These courses cover core general education subjects required for most college degrees, and some schools even offer career or technical education coursework. You can take these classes at your high school, a nearby college campus, or from the comfort of your home by taking it online.

Benefits of Dual Enrollment

Dual enrollment brings numerous advantages for high school students that can help them personally, academically, and professionally. Some of the benefits include:

Accelerating Your College Degree

By taking dual enrollment courses, you can get a head start on your college journey. Earning college credit early means you can finish your degree or certificate faster.

Saving Money

Dual enrollment is more affordable compared to taking college-level classes while enrolled in a college or technical school. It helps you save money on tuition fees.


Most dual enrollment course credits are transferable to various colleges and universities across the country. So, wherever you plan to attend college, your credits will likely be accepted.

A Smooth Transition

Dual enrollment provides you with college-level academic experience, preparing you for the challenges of higher education. It can make your transition to post-secondary education much smoother.

College Success

Studies show that students who take dual enrollment courses in high school have a higher chance of succeeding in college and earning their degrees.

Drawbacks of Dual Enrollment

While dual enrollment offers numerous benefits, it's essential to consider some potential drawbacks:

Eligibility Limitations

Dual enrollment courses are typically open to high school juniors and seniors, so underclassmen may not have this option.

Admission Requirements

To enroll in dual enrollment, you must meet the same admissions requirements as college-level students. Some courses may require specific scores on college admissions exams like the ACT or SAT.

Course Acceptance

Not all colleges accept dual enrollment credits, so it's crucial to check with your intended college or university about their policies beforehand. While state schools will typically accept dual credit courses as counting towards college credit, many elite and private universities might not accept dual credit.

How Dual Enrollment Stacks Up

Now let's compare dual enrollment to other popular advanced forms of high school courses:

Dual Enrollment vs. AP

Course Flexibility

Dual enrollment offers greater course flexibility. You can take college-level classes at your high school, a college campus, or online. On the other hand, AP courses are typically only available at high schools.

College Experience

Dual enrollment provides a more authentic college experience, as most of the time you'll be interacting with college professors and students. In contrast, AP courses are taught by high school teachers.


While dual enrollment options are cheaper than the tuition typically associated with the same courses taken while attending university, AP classes are typically even cheaper, staying around the $100 range.


Many colleges accept dual enrollment coursework, but a lot more universities will accept AP credit. It is important to check your dream colleges and their policies on AP and dual credit courses before choosing which one to take.

Dual Enrollment vs. IB

Course Selection

Dual enrollment offers a wider range of course options, including both general education and career-specific courses. IB programs have a more structured curriculum.

Credit Transfer

Both dual enrollment and IB courses may be transferable to colleges, but acceptance policies can vary. It's essential to verify credit transfer options with your target colleges.

Program Length

Dual enrollment allows you to take individual college courses, while the IB program is a comprehensive two-year program during your junior and senior years of high school.

Dual Enrollment vs. Honors Courses

Course Rigor

Honors courses are more challenging than standard high school courses but are not as advanced as college-level courses offered in dual enrollment. While dual enrollment provides a taste of college academics, honors courses offer an elevated level of difficulty within the high school setting.

Credit and Recognition

In dual enrollment, you can earn college credit that is widely transferable, which can accelerate your college journey. On the other hand, honors courses typically offer weighted GPAs, which can boost your high school GPA but may not directly translate to college credit.

College Preparation

Both dual enrollment and honors courses aim to prepare students for college. However, dual enrollment offers a more authentic college experience and exposure to actual college coursework, while honors courses focus on advanced content within the high school curriculum.

Admissions Requirements

Dual enrollment often requires meeting the admissions standards of the partnering college, while honors courses may have specific prerequisites or teacher recommendations.

Tips for Students Taking Dual Enrollment

If you decide to pursue dual enrollment, here are some helpful tips to make the most of your experience:

  • Plan Ahead: Discuss your dual enrollment plans with your high school counselor and parents to ensure they align with your academic and career goals.

  • Time Management: Balancing dual enrollment courses with your regular high school workload and other commitments can be challenging. Develop effective time management skills to stay on track and avoid taking too many college-level courses to keep yourself from burning out.

  • Stay Organized: Keep track of important dates, deadlines, and assignments for both your high school and college courses to avoid confusion.

  • Seek Support: If you encounter challenges in your dual enrollment courses, don't hesitate to ask for help from your teachers, counselors, or college professors. They are there to help you.

  • Focus on Your Goals: Use dual enrollment to explore subjects that interest you and align with your career aspirations. It's a valuable opportunity to test the waters before committing to a specific college major.

Dual enrollment can be a game-changer for high school students aiming to get ahead in their education. With the opportunity to earn college credits, save on tuition costs, and gain valuable college-level experience, it's a smart choice for many. While considering dual enrollment, weigh the benefits against any potential drawbacks, and compare it to other options like AP and IB to make an informed decision. Remember to plan ahead, stay organized, and seek support to make the most of your dual enrollment experience. Embrace this chance to take control of your future and set yourself up for academic success!

Think Dual Credit might not be for you? Learn more about Honors, AP, and IB courses here

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