what is dual enrollment

What is Dual Enrollment?

More and more high schools nationwide have sought to expand their curriculum by offering new types of courses beyond traditional coursework. One of the most popular options for today’s high school students is dual enrollment. But what is dual enrollment? In short, high schools partner with local colleges and universities to offer undergraduate-level coursework to high school students. In some cases, these courses can translate to college credit.

With all the different options available, from honors and AP courses to hybrid online programs, you may be wondering if it is worth entering a dual enrollment program at your high school. Maybe you’ve heard about dual enrollment from a counselor or teacher or had a presentation about the topic in your school. Dual enrollment has enjoyed a rapid rise in popularity over the last several years. In fact, some estimate dual enrollment may even be more popular than AP courses.  

In this article we’ll explore the question: what is dual enrollment? Throughout, we’ll answer some of the most pressing questions related to dual enrollment, including:

  • What is dual enrollment?
    What are the benefits of dual enrollment?
  • How does dual enrollment look on a college application?
  • What is concurrent enrollment and how is it different from dual enrollment?
  • How does dual enrollment compare to other high school course offerings?
  • And more!

Now, let’s jump right into the most pertinent question: what is dual enrollment?

What is Dual Enrollment in High School?

Before getting into all the facets of dual enrollment, let’s start with the basics.

What is dual enrollment?

Dual enrollment involves a partnership between a school district and a nearby college or university. The college or university allows high school students to take courses through that college. That also means students have the opportunity to potentially earn transferable college credits before they graduate. Many dual enrollment classes also qualify students for dual credit. Dual credit allows students to earn credits that count toward both their graduation requirements and college credit.

Dual enrollment classes vary widely depending on your school’s program. Some high schools do not offer dual enrollment or dual credit programs. Others may offer these programs through several different colleges. If you are interested in further exploring the question “what is dual enrollment?” as it pertains to you, talk to your school counselor or course scheduling administrator about what offerings are available.

Why dual enrollment?

Dual enrollment classes have several positive benefits, which we will discuss throughout the article. These benefits apply to any student who takes these programs. Still, they are particularly helpful for lower-income or minority students who want to get a head start on their college degrees and potentially graduate early. In general, early graduates take on less college debt. And, they are able to skip introductory classes that do not necessarily directly relate to their degrees.

Dual enrollment classes are also more rigorous than other high school offerings. Students can therefore gain exposure to college-level work and perhaps even classes not normally provided at the high school level. This allows students to explore niche interests, while proving that they can complete college level work. When it comes to the best classes to take in dual enrollment, there is no one right answer. Ultimately, it will depend on your interests and academic goals.

What is concurrent enrollment?

When researching the question “what is dual enrollment?”, you may come across the term concurrent enrollment in your search. Naturally, you might wonder: what is concurrent enrollment and how is it similar or different from dual enrollment? 

The concurrent enrollment definition is similar to the dual enrollment meaning previously discussed. However, there are some nuances to the concurrent enrollment definition to be aware of. So, let’s discuss “what is concurrent enrollment” in more detail.

Concurrent enrollment definition

The main difference between concurrent enrollment and dual enrollment are the credits you earn. In concurrent enrollment, the enrolled student is earning college credit, but not high school credit. The other main difference is the location where students take their classes. Dual enrollment classes are typically taken on the participating college or university campus. Concurrent enrollment classes are typically taken in the high school environment.

The concurrent enrollment definition can depend on where it is being offered. The concurrent enrollment definition is understandably broad, as it encompasses a number of different options. However, the concurrent enrollment definition is often used interchangeably with the term dual enrollment. Therefore it is important to check with your school to see exactly what it is their program is offering. 

Regardless, both concurrent enrollment and dual enrollment classes offer college credit and an opportunity to experience a college-level class before enrolling full-time. For these reasons and more, it is well worth investigating both “what is dual enrollment?” and “what is concurrent enrollment?”to find the college credit program that is right for you.   

Does Dual Enrollment look good on college applications?

what is dual enrollment

Because the college admissions process regards rigorous high school programs so highly, dual enrollment classes inevitably look good on college applications. The best classes to take in dual enrollment will all be challenging. So, any student who participates in a dual enrollment program can prove their readiness for college-level courses.

While any college level course looks good on your application, keep in mind that concurrent enrollment prevents those courses from counting toward your high school credits. Therefore, they won’t help you meet coursework requirements on your college applications. 

Whether you are going through the international college admissions process or applying to universities within the U.S., dual enrollment provides a helpful head start on the path to graduation. In these terms, the dual enrollment meaning may seem simple. However, you’ll need to do the work in order to keep your GPA up and earn dual credit.

Enhancing your academic record

Remember that the best classes to take in dual enrollment are the ones that will strengthen your high school transcript–this means choose classes of interest to you that you can succeed in! Successfully taking on a dual enrollment program will strengthen your application to your dream school, getting you ahead in the college admissions process.

Regardless of which route you take with dual enrollment or dual credit, these courses will strengthen your college application to your dream school as compared to regular or even honors-level courses at your high school. Dual enrollment courses are viewed favorably by admissions teams, similar to AP or IB level courses (both of which also provide a head start on the path toward college graduation). 

Remember that the specifics of the dual enrollment meaning will change at different schools. So, it is important to check whether dual enrollment courses are weighted favorably for your GPA and whether the credits will be accepted at the dream school you want to attend. One of the problems with dual enrollment is that not all credits are treated equally, so always check the transfer requirements for your state or school district. This is especially true with international college admissions, which may have different requirements. 

Dual enrollment classes are, for the most part, academically rigorous, and therefore valuable in the college admissions process, both for international college admissions and admissions within the US. Many students even apply to schools where they have participated in dual enrollment  programs, starting ahead of their classmates on the path toward graduation. So, if you’re looking to strengthen your college application, “what is dual enrollment?” or “what is concurrent enrollment?” are definitely two questions worth answering.

Who benefits from Dual Enrollment?

what is dual enrollment

As the dual enrollment meaning and name suggest, the students who benefit most from dual enrollment are those looking to pursue a four-year college degree after high school. Applicants to state schools, public universities, or community college transfer programs are particularly helped by dual enrollment programs. This is because their earned credit is most likely to be accepted at one of those schools.

Students attending private universities or schools out of state may have some problems with dual enrollment credits transferring to those schools. That being said, any student who plans to earn a degree after high school should consider the dual enrollment meaning and see if it benefits their particular situation.

Lower costs and added flexibility

The dual enrollment meaning confirms that students can earn college credit in high school. As such, students can often skip introductory college courses thanks to dual credit. This means they can graduate from their dream school sooner and with less debt.

This can benefit any student, but is particularly helpful for those who need financial aid to attend college. In particular, low-income students, students in the international college admissions process, and first-generation students. While dual enrollment classes do come at a cost, which is one of the problems with dual enrollment, they are significantly less expensive than classes at a college or university. 

When thinking, “what is dual enrollment?”, it is important to acknowledge the flexibility of the dual enrollment meaning and how that translates to different programs. Essentially, students can take classes in their high school, through a four-year or community college, or even online. This flexibility benefits different types of students: those looking to challenge themselves with a more difficult workload and those wanting an easier platform to facilitate their learning. Students who take dual enrollment classes gain confidence from completing difficult coursework and are more likely to succeed in college.

How to do Dual Enrollment in High School

After answering the question “what is dual enrollment?” and looking into the different dual enrollment options, you may be wondering about next steps. First, talk to your school counselor and decide what pathway you want to pursue. Remember that the dual enrollment meaning is different from the concurrent enrollment definition, so make sure you are choosing the right path for accomplishing your goals. 

Consider your interests

The question “what is dual enrollment?” can have many answers. As such, you may have a variety of different classes to choose from. Be sure to keep in mind that the best classes to take in dual enrollment are the ones that interest you the most. So, think about your passions and pick courses that align with your interests. You will have some extra work with these classes, so be sure to consider this when deciding how many dual enrollment classes you want to take in one semester.

Research the requirements

Once you have selected the best classes to take in dual enrollment, the next step to pursuing dual enrollment or dual credit classes is checking the requirements. Like many advanced high school courses, dual enrollment classes have prerequisites, such as a certain GPA or the completion of a certain preparatory class.

Students may also need a parental permission or letter of recommendation as the requirements for dual enrollment vary from school to school. Especially if you want to earn dual credit for the classes you take, be sure to check that you have fulfilled all the requirements to receive that dual credit. 

Apply and register

Once you have decided which dual credit or dual enrollment classes you want to take, you may need to apply. Indeed, the best classes to take in dual enrollment may have limited spaces available. Make sure that you have looked into the specifics of what is dual enrollment for your classes and your school. You’ll need to understand the application process before applying in order to prepare your required materials. 

If you are accepted to a dual enrollment program, then you will then proceed to register for your classes. When registering, make sure you know whether you are taking classes in person or online. Suppose you are exploring what is concurrent enrollment. You may need to work out how you are commuting to the location where your class is being held, as classes that fall under the concurrent enrollment definition may not meet at your regular high school. 

Complete your coursework

The final step is actually completing the course requirements and keeping up with the dual credit workload. Because you are earning college and high school credits simultaneously (unless you fall under the concurrent enrollment definition), the workload for dual enrollment classes is significantly more than a regular class. Be prepared to have a similar or even more difficult workload than an AP or IB class. Remember that you can only receive the benefits if you receive a minimum grade. Therefore, make sure you can handle the difficulty of these courses before entering a dual enrollment program.

As you probably noticed from our answers to “what is concurrent enrollment?” and “what is dual enrollment?”–there are many benefits for those up for the challenge. Students should only look into what is dual enrollment if they can assume responsibility for the increased workload. And you’ll need to ensure that your credits will transfer to your dream school! While there are a lot of steps to completing dual enrollment, the benefits are worth it if you are willing to work for them!

Dual Credit vs AP

what is dual enrollment

When exploring what is dual enrollment and looking into the concurrent enrollment definition, you’ll likely want to know how they compare to other college readiness programs. Two such programs are International Baccalaureate (IB) and Advanced Placement (AP). For now, let’s focus on comparing dual enrollment with AP classes.

Similarities between Dual Credit and Advanced Placement

Both dual enrollment and AP courses allow students to earn college credit before they graduate high school. This credit is earned through successful completion of the class with high enough scores to qualify for credit. However, the standards for how this credit is determined is in fact a key difference between these two programs.

In general, both dual enrollment and AP classes are more challenging than average high school classes. As such, students may need to complete some prerequisite work or be at a certain grade level to take these courses.

Differences between Dual Credit and Advanced Placement

As you may have already guessed, there are also many differences to consider when looking into what is dual enrollment vs AP courses. AP courses are offered at more high schools than dual enrollment meaning it is easier to find an AP class than a dual enrollment one.

AP courses are also more standardized than dual enrollment meaning the quality of AP courses will be similar no matter the school. Additionally, students across the country will always take the same AP test. However, when it comes to answering “what is dual enrollment,” programs vary widely in their structure and content. Indeed, one of the main problems with dual enrollment is its lack of consistency or standardization.

As previously mentioned, another key difference when considering what is dual enrollment vs AP is how schools award college credit for these courses. Dual enrollment awards credit based on a student’s GPA in their dual enrollment classes. However, AP courses require students to take a content exam at the end of the year to determine whether the course can be used for credit

Furthermore, there is no single standard for what GPA or AP score is needed to earn credit. So, students will need to check the dual enrollment GPA requirement for their chosen school to know how they need to perform in the class for credit. For this reason, deciding between an end of year exam versus a holistic review of performance is one of the best ways to determine whether dual enrollment or AP classes are right for you!

Best classes to take in Dual Enrollment

Now, let’s talk about the best dual enrollment classes to take. Choosing the best classes to take in dual enrollment may seem like a daunting task at first. Knowing the basics beyond “what is concurrent enrollment?” and “what is dual enrollment?” can make the decision easier. Here are some things we think you should take into consideration when choosing the best classes to take in dual enrollment.  

If you aren’t sure what you want to major in:

Explore core subject areas like English, history, math, and science. This will help you to get a good sense of a broad selection of topics and whether they’d make good majors. Many institutions offer general education credits for courses taken in dual enrollment meaning more time to explore your interests through electives. After all, what is dual enrollment good for if not getting a head start on college?

If you’re interested in a particular major:

Alternatively, what is concurrent enrollment’s benefit for students who’ve already got a plan? Well, you can choose courses that align with your potential major. For example, if you are interested in a health sciences major, consider taking anatomy and physiology. You can get ahead in your education journey by taking dual credit courses that align with your career interests. Moreover, the dual enrollment meaning includes taking courses at a university, so you may be exposed to additional research or other extracurricular opportunities. 

Choosing the right dual credits will help you make the most of your education. As you’re choosing classes, ask yourself, “What do I want, and what is dual enrollment’s advantage for me?” Understanding the dual enrollment meaning and how it fits into your educational goals is key to helping you plan for college.

Colleges that accept Dual Enrollment

what is dual enrollment

Before you enroll in dual credit courses, do your research to make sure your dream school will accept them. While many colleges do accept dual credit courses, some do not. For example, many top private schools do not accept dual enrollment credit, even if they give credit for AP courses. Let’s explore some examples of schools that accept dual enrollment and their policies. 

Up first is the University of California. UC’s site provides their specific policies for accepting dual enrollment. Some key points include how you should report coursework, how dual credits impact GPA calculation, and which dual enrollment courses qualify. There’s lots of information around concurrent enrollment, so you should take notes and ask for support if anything is unclear. 

Penn State is one university that offers dual credit to high school students who attend one of Penn State’s campuses. Dual enrollment classes are available to high school seniors, or to juniors on a case-by-case basis. Students are able to take up to eight dual enrollment credits per semester. However, most of their students take one or two dual enrollment courses per semester in addition to their normal high school curriculum. In your research, try searching for “what is concurrent enrollment policy” with the name of your intended university.

Lastly, Texas A&M Commerce offers dual enrollment courses through their partnership schools. Some Texas A&M Commerce dual enrollment course offerings focus on the core curriculum. This concurrent enrollment definition means you can get a head start on core courses. Students must meet Texas Success Initiative eligibility requirements and have permission from a counselor or principal to enroll. Understanding the dual enrollment meaning for this school will help you navigate Texas A&M Commerce’s specific requirements. 

Every school is different

These are just a few schools that accept dual enrollment meaning there are many more out there—maybe even your dream school. Be sure to do your own research to find out about others that accept dual enrollment credit and their specific policies. Knowing “what is dual enrollment” and how the dual enrollment meaning applies to schools on your list can help you make informed decisions about whether you should enroll. Familiarize yourself with the concurrent enrollment definition and policies at potential colleges so that you understand all options available to you.

Do Dual Enrollment classes affect college GPA?

Answering “what is concurrent enrollment” often leads to questions about your GPA in college. Even though dual enrollment classes may count for college credit, they do not impact your college GPA. This is similar to how AP courses are factored into your college academic transcript. You get a head start on college intro courses with little risk to your college GPA with dual enrollment meaning there’s very little downside!

However, you may also be wondering, what is dual enrollment’s impact on your high school GPA? Remember, the concurrent enrollment definition means that you take these courses in high school. When choosing courses, ask not just what is concurrent enrollment, but how well you think you might do in these courses. In the long term, your grades will impact your high school transcript and ultimately your college applications.

Problems with Dual Enrollment

Now that we know what is dual enrollment, we should discuss some problems with dual enrollment to consider. In previous sections, we’ve hinted at some problems with dual enrollment. So, let’s go beyond “what is dual enrollment?” and “what is concurrent enrollment?” and look at some hard truths:

Problems with Dual Enrollment

what is dual enrollment

1. Dual enrollment courses are less accessible at schools serving lower-income communities and majority students of color.

Schools in these communities often lack sufficient resources to offer dual enrollment courses, from partnerships with colleges to qualified instructors and funding. As a result, students in these communities miss out on the benefits of early exposure to college-level classes and the opportunity to earn college credit. 

2. Dual enrollment courses are underutilized by historically marginalized students.

Even when dual enrollment programs are available, they tend to be underused by minority groups. Lack of awareness, inadequate counseling, and other barriers contribute to this trend. Even schools that offer these courses may have students unaware of the concurrent enrollment definition. Nevertheless, minority and socioeconomically disadvantaged students who take advantage of dual enrollment opportunities often enjoy benefits like higher college degree attainment. 

3. Dual enrollment courses are not standardized across states.

Unlike programs like AP or IB, there are no sweeping standards for dual enrollment meaning policies can be confusing and inconsistent. Differences in eligibility requirements, course availability, dual credit transfer policies, and funding can make navigating the system challenging. This lack of standardization can also affect the quality, amount, and rigor of courses, with some states offering different courses than others. Beyond the fundamental answer to, “what is dual enrollment?” many other factors can vary widely even in the same state. 

4. It’s challenging to balance dual enrollment courses with a full high school course load and extracurriculars.

After all, the concurrent enrollment definition says that these courses are at a college level. These college-level courses require more time, effort, and self-discipline than typical high school classes. The difficulty of managing these responsibilities may deter some students from participating in dual enrollment courses—or worse, contribute to burnout.

These are just a few of the problems with dual enrollment. Some solutions include increased access and support for all dual enrollment students and hopefuls, as well as greater standardization. A more standardized answer to, “what is dual enrollment?” bolstered by better resources and counseling might ensure all students can take advantage of dual enrollment. 

What happens if you fail a dual enrollment class?

what is dual enrollment

Failing dual enrollment classes can have several consequences. If you fail a dual enrollment course, it will negatively impact your high school GPA. Remember, the dual enrollment meaning says these courses count towards your high school course requirements. Although failed courses won’t impact your college GPA unfortunately, they still count toward your high school GPA. And, as part of the international college admissions process, you are required to report all courses and grades. Of course, failed dual enrollment classes will appear on your application, which may work against you in the college admissions process.

Some dual enrollment programs allow students who fail a course to repeat the course. This gives you an opportunity to improve your grade and mitigate the impact on your academic record. However, do your research—what is dual enrollment failure policy in your local program? You should know before enrolling.

Finally, if your dual enrollment course also serves to fulfill high school requirements, you may need remedial classes. In other words, you might need to take additional courses or find an alternative course to earn your diploma.

As you can see, failing dual enrollment classes can have less than ideal consequences. As such, it is important to know what is dual enrollment and to consider these consequences before enrolling. That way, you can make an educated decision on whether or not you should take dual enrollment courses.

Dual Credit Classes Pros and Cons

Just like anything else, there are pros and cons to taking dual enrollment courses. Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons to be aware of when deciding to take dual enrollment courses.

What is dual enrollment: Pros and Cons

Pros Cons 
• Cost-effective and time effective—transferred credits can save time and money in college.
• Courses are academically challenging and make for a stronger college application.
• Accessible opportunity to explore academic interests at a high level.
• Credits may not transfer, depending on the institution you attend.
• Courses have higher expectations and heavier workload, which can lead to increased stress and burnout.
• Costs vary depending on the program, and may be more than what a student and their family can afford.

As previously stated, dual enrollment courses can be a great way for you to get a head start on college. However, you should take the time to consider the benefits and problems with dual enrollment before you enroll. Remember that not all schools offer the same dual enrollment opportunities, and not all colleges accept dual enrollment credit. You will need to do your own research on these nuances. 

Additionally, you should consider the cost. While dual enrollment saves you money in the long run by avoiding college tuition for certain courses, they may still have tuition fees. However, there may be options for scholarships and grants to make your dual enrollment education more affordable up front. 

Finally, it is important to remember that dual enrollment courses come with a heavier workload and are more academically challenging than your standard high school curriculum. Make sure to consider this and manage your time wisely before making the commitment. 

How does Dual Enrollment work – 5 Things to Remember

Before getting started on your dual enrollment journey, it is important that you understand: what is dual enrollment and how does it work? Here are five of the most important things to know about dual enrollment:

5 Things to Remember about Dual Enrollment

what is dual enrollment

1. What is Dual Enrollment?

What is dual enrollment and what is concurrent enrollment? In general, both refer to courses that high school students can take for college credit. Dual enrollment courses allow high school students to take college courses for credit while still completing their high school degree. With dual enrollment courses, students can experience college-level coursework early on and get a head start on their college education!

2. The role Dual Enrollment plays in preparing students for college

What is dual enrollment as a college preparatory tool? Dual enrollment plays an important role in preparing students for college-level coursework. Pursuing dual enrollment credits will help you learn vital skills for higher education like critical thinking, time management, and better study habits. These courses can also help you adjust to the expectations of college, reducing some academic hardships many first-year college students experience. 

3. The benefits of Dual Enrollment

A clear benefit of dual enrollment courses is getting college credit while still in high school. These credits may reduce the time and cost to complete your college degree down the line. Further, exposing yourself to college-level coursework early on will help to prepare you for the expectations of going to college. Having dual enrollment coursework on your transcript gives you a competitive edge in the international college admissions process and can help you get into your dream school. It may also be the additive factor you need on your application that sets you apart on a waitlist

4. The challenges of Dual Enrollment 

While there are many benefits to taking dual enrollment courses, it is important to also consider the challenges. First is the increased workload. Make sure you can balance your high school curriculum and extracurriculars before you enroll in dual enrollment classes. There may also be limits to dual enrollment credit transferability, so be sure to do your research first. Additionally, it is important to recognize that there are barriers to access for some students due to location, funding, and resources. The equity of dual enrollment courses is still a work in progress. 

5. Choosing Dual Enrollment courses 

When finding the best classes to take in dual enrollment, consider your future goals. What is concurrent enrollment going to do for you? And what is dual enrollment credit policy like at the schools on your list? Check transfer policies for the colleges you are interested in applying to, assess your personal readiness, and consider course rigor. By taking time to consider these factors, you will be better off choosing the best classes to take in dual enrollment for you.

What is Dual Enrollment – Conclusion

We hope this article has helped you to gain a better understanding of what is dual enrollment! Remember that dual enrollment programs allow high school students to enroll in college courses so they can earn both high school and college credits at the same time.

Earlier we discussed the difference between the dual enrollment meaning and the concurrent enrollment definition. Remember that, in many cases, dual enrollment and concurrent enrollment definitions are used interchangeably. However, while both terms refer to high school students taking college-level courses, there are some subtle differences. Dual enrollment refers to students taking courses at college while earning high school and college credit. Conversely, the concurrent enrollment definition refers to students taking college-level courses at the high school that counts as college credit. 

Doing well in your dual enrollment courses can certainly enhance your college applications. It demonstrates to international college admissions officers you are capable of handling college-level coursework. This can help you get into your dream school!

Like we mentioned earlier, there are pros and cons to dual enrollment courses. Make sure to consider both before enrolling. Some pros of dual enrollment include college-level academic preparation, cost saving, and overall time reduction. On the flip side, some problems with dual enrollment include course load rigor, transferability of dual credits, and barriers to access for some students. If you can, ask your classmates about their experiences with dual enrollment in your community. 

Looking for extra support?

Choosing your dual enrollment curriculum can be difficult, but CollegeAdvisor is here to help! Our experienced advisors can assist you in selecting the best classes to take in dual enrollment. They can help you research the transferability of your dual credits, and highlight your dual enrollment success in college applications.

Revisit this guide if you need a reminder on what is dual enrollment. Additionally, our advisors can also help you with your personal statement, navigating your CSS profile, or transferring to another college! If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to CollegeAdvisor to make the most of your dual enrollment education and feel confident navigating the international college admissions process.

what is dual enrollment

This article was written by senior advisor Alex Baggott-Rowe and Bailey Bennett. Looking for more admissions support? Click here to schedule a free meeting with one of our Admissions Specialists. During your meeting, our team will discuss your profile and help you find targeted ways to increase your admissions odds at top schools. We’ll also answer any questions and discuss how CollegeAdvisor.com can support you in the college application process.