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How to Get Ahead in High School With Dual Enrollment Credit

Dual enrollment is great for bringing academics to the next level. Here's how you can get ahead by taking college-level courses for credit in high school.

In high school, you may feel like you want to do something a little extra toward your future college career. Maybe you’re a student who welcomes a challenge, one who wants to bring your high school courses to the next level, or you just want something noteworthy on your résumé. Whatever your goals are, a great source for advancing your education is dual enrollment. Let’s take a look at what dual enrollment is, why it can help you, the potential downsides, the financial implications, and more.

Dual credits: What are they?

Dual credit classes can be taken through a college or university and count as both high school and college credits. For example, if you take an English class for one semester through a local college, that class will count for both three to five college credits and your entire high school year of English. With dual enrollment, you have several options: you can take classes at your own high school (many schools offer dual credit college classes that are administered by high school teachers); you can take the courses online (a good option if you want the flexibility of studying at home or in between your other classes); or you can physically go to a college and take the courses on campus.

Does this sound too good to be true? Maybe. There’s just one catch: you’ll have to work a little harder to earn dual credits. These are college classes, of course—the same ones traditional college students take during undergrad—which means the work’s level of difficulty is higher than regular high school courses. This shouldn’t be a deterrent, especially if you’re the type of student who is a self-starter and autonomous, mature, and up to the rigor of college-level courses. Read on to learn more and see if dual enrollment could be a great fit for you.

Related: 5 Reasons to Consider Dual Enrollment in High School

Pros of dual enrollment

Besides the obvious advantages of completing high school courses in half the time and receiving credits you can apply toward your general education or major requirements in college (saving you time and money later on), taking college courses in high school will also develop those more mature qualities in you that will be necessary as a full-time college student. While speeding up your academic development, they can also mitigate “the freshman daze” that often comes with your first year of college, when you are subject to all manner and amount of mind-melting course loads and subjects, along with the demands of other activities. Dual credit classes will help you get an insider’s perspective on what college is all about, with perhaps lower stakes than when you’re fully immersed in that atmosphere.

Potential cons of dual enrollment

If, for example, you’re a high schooler who is highly active in sports and your time is focused on those sports, it may be difficult for you to find time to take dual credits with a demanding afterschool schedule. Or if you aren’t shooting for a more selective university that will want evidence of college preparedness or AP-type courses, then maybe dual credits aren’t necessary.  Taking dual credit courses is a time-consuming endeavor that requires a lot of effort, patience, and maturity—a structure of work that will demand you to work your best. However, this can be a good thing in the long run when your degree-seeking program requires you to work hard and prove your maturity and time-management skills. 

Related: Pre-College Credit: How to Earn It and How It Transfers

Financial implications

Of course, when deciding to take any college classes, money is something you must consider. And typically, college courses can be expensive. However, dual credit courses recognize that high school students may not yet have all the money required to complete college, and so most schools offer a reduced rate for their dual credit classes. In addition, programs such as College Credit Plus in Ohio will completely cover the cost of a certain number of credits as long as you send in the required letter of intent and application by the deadline and have been accepted to a college as a high school student participating in dual credits. The application to your chosen college will typically be simplified somewhat if it’s a public institution, requiring the basics such as an official high school transcript and perhaps a short essay. Once accepted, you will qualify as non-degree seeking, but for all intents and purposes, you’re a student at that institution and have access to most (if not all) of their amenities and activities.

Dual credits after high school

Once you’ve graduated high school and are enrolled in the college where you will get your degree, dual credits come back again to help you out. Some students take so many credits that they graduate high school with the equivalent of an associate degree; others take enough to cover the first couple of semesters of general education courses. Most public liberal arts colleges will accept all of your credits, though be aware that if you attend a private liberal arts college, they may accept only a certain number and type of credits. However, the majority of your credits will be accepted, especially if you take classes that aren’t highly obscure and ones that would qualify in most cases, such as an English or biology class. These classes will then save you a good deal of time in your studies toward your degree, especially if you take basic classes like the aforementioned. Then you can go straight to classes that count toward your major.

My personal experience

While describing dual credit courses, I have attempted to stay (mostly) unbiased. But now, I must admit: my own experience with dual enrollment has been wonderful. Currently I am finishing up my fourth semester of dual credits at the second college in my repertoire (Ohio State University at Mansfield—my first was Missouri Western State University). I have loved every class I’ve taken. I’ve participated in classes both on campus (my personal favorite) and online, and I feel that I’ve become a better student and far more prepared for college full time because of it. Plus, as a homeschooler, dual credit classes have afforded me classroom experience with other older students. Though quite challenging and busy, my courses have also been intellectually stimulating and discussion based to grant me a level of maturity, experience, and perspective that positively impacted my high school career and even my outlook on academics and life in general.

Related: Dual Enrollment: Are Online or In-Person Classes Better for You?

Dual credit courses are sort of like a well-sharpened sword: you can whip them out to prove your strengths and show prospective colleges that you’ve got what it takes to compete. They’re edged toward success as they prepare you for your future college experience, which will be even more demanding than high school. Perhaps most importantly, dual credits will almost certainly grant those who take them a more open outlook on the arts and sciences alike, which will help you appreciate those subjects even more in your future undergraduate program. Though not everyone will need or want to take dual credit courses, I wholeheartedly recommend doing so if you desire a greater challenge or want to earn a new sense of accomplishment from your high school career.

If you need more advice to get ahead of the college game in high school, check out more articles like this in our Majors and Academics section.

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