Breaking Down Dual Enrollment: 5 Common Questions Answered


AP courses, IB diploma, CTE programs--there are many different options to consider when you’re trying to challenge yourself academically. There are pros and cons to each of the options, so take a look at our breakdown of dual enrollment to help you narrow things down.

Trying to decide if dual enrollment is for you? Here’s everything you should know about dual enrollment. 

What is dual enrollment? 

Dual enrollment is when students are “enrolled—concurrently—in two distinct academic programs or educational institutions.” according to the Glossary of Education Reform. Dual enrollment enables high school students to take college-level courses while enrolled at their high school institution. A common synonym for dual enrollment is “early college.” 

Am I eligible for dual enrollment?

The requirements for dual enrollment vary by state, so feel free to speak with your guidance counselor to see if it’s an option for you. According to Best Value Schools, “Usually, candidates must be at least 16 years old. They must be high school sophomores, juniors or seniors and they have to maintain a 2.5 to a 3.0 GPA.”

In addition to age and grade requirements, in order to enroll, you’re going to need signed permission from your parents or guardians, along with your guidance counselor. 

Why should I enroll in a college-level course? 

For some students, dual enrollment is a good choice for summertime, keeping your brain active and challenged over the break. No matter what your motivation, the biggest perks of dual enrollment are saving time and money. In some high schools, you might get to participate in dual enrollment for free. In many cases, your credits will transfer to your undergraduate degree, which means a few less credits you have to pay for our spend a semester taking. 

If the dual enrollment course you’re taking satisfies a general education requirement, it may free up time in your college schedule to explore other interesting classes, study abroad (Ciao, Roma!), or take on an internship and get some life experience.
College Essay Guy

An added benefit is that enrolling in college courses while in high school demonstrates your work ethic. Dual enrollment shows admissions “your willingness to challenge yourself.”  If you’re looking to challenge yourself academically, consider dual enrollment. According to Best Value Schools, “Dual enrollment can be a good option for motivated students to get a head start on a college education.” From an academic standpoint, dual enrollment is a chance for you to experience a college-level course and start to get a sense of what you can expect in college, while practicing your study and time management skills. 


What should I know about the downsides of dual enrollment? 

One potential downside is that admissions might prefer to see AP courses on your transcript. While dual enrollment demonstrates your willingness to challenge yourself, admissions counselors may wonder why you chose to take a college course at a different school rather than taking advantage of the AP courses your school offers. 

According to Ethan Sawyer, a nationally recognized college essay expert, also known as The College Essay Guy, “Admissions counselors will evaluate your transcript by looking at how you did in the courses you took given the context of what resources were available to you at your high school. Since selective colleges are looking for students who take the most rigorous courses available, they might wonder why you took US History at a local college rather than AP US History at your high school.”

Another downside is that there’s a chance the course credit won’t transfer to the college you end up attending. It won’t necessarily be a waste of time, but if you’re enrolling for the sole purpose of getting a head start in college, keep in mind you aren’t guaranteed to have that course go towards your degree. 

Are there any alternatives to dual enrollment? 

There are a few different alternatives to dual enrollment:

  • College in your high school: Some colleges and high schools have a partnership that allows students to take a course at the high school, rather than taking the course online or at the local college. In this scenario, credits will transfer to the partner college. 

  • Career and Technical Education Dual Credit (CTE, formerly known as Tech Prep): CTE programs create a path to your career. CTE classes allow high school students to “integrate academics with technical skills to help prepare students for advanced education and careers related to professional-technical occupations.”  Here’s a list of example fields, provided by the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Education:

    • agriculture

    • applied science

    • business

    • engineering technology

    • health

    • information technology

    • mechanical, industrial or practical arts or trades

  • Running Start: According to the University of Washington, “Running Start allows academically qualified students in grades 11-12 to take college courses online or on the campus of the college offering the courses.“ In addition to Washington, Running Start is also available through some colleges in New Hampshire, Montana, and Hawaii.  

  • Advanced Placement (AP) Courses: Advanced Placement classes are “designed to give you the experience of an intro-level college class while you’re still in high school.” There are 38 AP course options available, and each requires you to take the AP exam. Find out more about the pros and cons of AP courses here

When you’re trying to challenge yourself academically and get a head start for college, there are a lot of different options you can consider. Talk to your guidance counselor, or feel free to connect with us and we can help you talk through your options.