What is Dual Enrollment? And How Does It Work?

If you’re a high school student looking to get a head start on earning college credits, dual enrollment might be an option for you.

Dual enrollment also referred to as concurrent enrollment, or dual credit occurs when a student is enrolled at two academic institutions or schools at the same time. The credits you work toward during dual enrollment can often apply at both schools, often a high school and a college.

If you’re just beginning to explore dual enrollment courses, we’ll cover the basics so that you’ll understand exactly how dual enrollment works, so you can decide if it’s a good fit for you.

How Does Dual Enrollment Work?

It can vary based on school and/or state, but conceptually dual enrollment works the same.

Dual enrollment allows high school juniors and seniors to take college-level courses either at their high school or a local community college for college credit. As long as the student earns a satisfactory grade (typically a C or better) the credit will not only count for high school but the student will also receive college credit.

College students can take different courses at different schools and this is also considered dual enrollment. This type of dual enrollment is especially popular during summer sessions. College students living at home during the summer can complete a few courses over the summer at a local or community college and transfer those credits back to their school. This can be especially cost-effective and could help students graduate ahead of schedule.

Is Dual Enrollment Better Than Advanced Placement (AP) Classes?

Taking dual enrollment courses vs. AP classes are both ways high school students can better prepare themselves for college courses. But there are a few key differences:

  • Dual Enrollment. College-level courses usually taken at a nearby community college or university. College credits can be earned in dual enrollment classes. However, not all schools accept dual enrollment credits, so be sure to research your options.
  • Advanced Placement. A high school class that culminates in a standardized exam graded on a scale of 1 to 5. The AP program is sponsored by the College Board and has courses in various subjects such as English, math, sciences, foreign languages, history, etc. AP credits are widely accepted at many colleges but may only help you skip introductory-level courses, instead of earning credits before starting college.

Both dual enrollment and AP classes can help you jump-start your college career.

Benefits of Dual Enrollment

There are many benefits of dual enrollment classes, including the following:

  • Get a head start on earning college credits
  • Transfer the credits you earned during dual enrollment to a four-year school. (This could help you graduate on time or early!)
  • Explore different fields of study not available at your high school.
  • Delve into classes in a field that you may want to major in during college.

How to Pay for Dual Enrollment & How Much Does It Cost?

Dual enrollment costs vary based on the school. According to a study from Pearson, dual enrollment classes for high school students can cost on average $0 to $400 (not including the cost of books). You should check with your high school on specific costs and who covers the costs as sometimes they are covered by the state, by your school district, by you and your family, or a combination of these.

How Dual Enrollment Can Save You Money

Considering the minimal cost, dual enrollment can be a very cost-effective way to earn college credits. This could help lower tuition costs if your credits transfer. If you’re researching dual enrollment, be sure to research if the colleges that you’re applying to accept dual enrollment credits.

Is Dual Enrollment Right for You?

Dual enrollment classes are a cost-effective way for great high school students to earn college credit.  The easiest way to determine if dual enrollment is for you is by answering a few simple questions:

  • Can I transfer these credits to a college I want to attend after high school?
  • Can I afford the costs of tuition & books for my dual enrollment class?
  • Is this a course you can’t take at your high school?

If you answered “Yes” to all these questions, dual enrollment could be the perfect fit for you.


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