Once limited to only the most ambitious high-achieving students, dual enrollment programs that allow students to take college courses and earn college credit—yes, while they are still in high school—are becoming increasingly common.
The programs and their requirements vary by state or district, but high schools often have agreements with local community colleges. Eligible students that meet program requirements may take some of their classes on the community college campus, but if enough students are participating, the college-level classes may be held at the high school instead.
Although some critics claim that students who have trouble with the college-level classes may decide not to continue their educations after high school due to their “bad experience,” dual enrollment programs are generally considered beneficial.
If you’re thinking about applying for a dual enrollment program, here are four big benefits of high school students taking community college classes:
1. You’ll get a taste of college. College-level classes are more challenging than high school classes. Even if you take your college classes at your high school rather than on the college campus, the work will be tougher and the instructors will have higher expectations than your high school teachers. Yes, it will be different than “regular” college—what you’ll experience once you’re completely finished with high school—but you’ll have a chance to see what college classes are like, something than most high school students don’t get to do.
2. Advanced classes will look good on your college applications. College admissions counselors admit that seeing a mixture of honors and Advanced Placement classes on a student’s transcripts looks far better than seeing straight A’s in basket weaving and gym. College classes on your high school transcripts will be just as impressive.
3. You will be able to earn your degree quicker. Earning college credit while you’re still in high school can help reduce the amount of time it will take to earn your degree. For example, if you’re able to earn twelve college credits before you even graduate from high school, you could potentially graduate from college a full semester early—or pursue a minor that you wouldn’t have had time for otherwise.
4. You’ll save money! Many dual enrollment programs are free for eligible students thanks to government funding and others are very reasonably priced. In many cases, the textbooks are provided, too! But even if you had to pay full-price for the college-level classes, community college tuition is much cheaper than tuition at four-year universities.
Despite the benefits described above, dual enrollment programs aren’t right for everyone, even if you are a very good student. Taking additional classes is time-consuming. The extra class meetings and the reading, homework, and assignments that go along with them will eat into your free time, which means you may have less time for extracurricular activities or a part-time job. Your grades will also become part of your permanent transcript and affect your GPA. This may not be a problem if you earn A’s and B’s, but a C or two may cause your GPA to drop.
If a dual enrollment program is available at your school and you’re interested in participating, speak with your guidance counselor for more information.
Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.
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