Dual Enrollment vs. AP

When faced with the option to expand upon academic rigor as a high school junior or senior, inevitably this question is raised . . . “Should I take dual enrollment or AP classes?  Which is better?”

It’s an age-old debate on the choice over which a student should spend his/her time pursuing most in high school:  an academic profile to include AP coursework or one whose namesake suggests twice the reward . . . dual enrollment.  But really, how is one to determine what’s best and what will work in the long-term academic appeal for college and beyond?

It would certainly be great if “one size fit all” on this subject, but the truth of the matter is, each student’s journey will and should include an academic portfolio that honestly reflects not only where the student is willing to be challenged, but propose an academic culture with purpose as well.

Students are often trying to decide between dual enrollment or AP classes for one of two reasons:  either wondering which is most favored by colleges and universities or whether or not they count as credit toward college.

So, what’s best for you?  Should you consider taking AP courses?  Should you explore the option of dual enrollment?  Or one better, should you consider both or neither?  Let’s address these questions by taking a closer look at each of these options.

In taking a more objective look, each of these options follow a different set of measurements for evaluation.   AP’s are generally understood by admissions professionals as having a consistent quality of instruction with consistent expectations.  Colleges tend to use the final scores from the AP tests (1-5) in a variety of ways:  academic placement without credit, academic exemption without credit, course credit for elective or course credit for core requirement.  Traditionally, regardless of the AP test results, students can count on added weight to be given to their high school GPA.

Dual enrollment classes take on a completely different feel.  For admissions professionals, when giving consideration to the level of academic rigor, it is a bit more difficult to gauge.  The level of academic challenge and course content can vary between institutions offering dual enrollment coursework.  While it may meet the need to fulfill a high school requirement, it may not meet the prerequisite at the college in which you wish to enroll.  This is then compounded by the fact that most high school juniors and some seniors have yet to determine even a small list of considerable colleges or universities to know if it’s a good idea.

However, while the above seems a bit cut-and-dry, it is hardly the case.  I have known plenty of students that have taken AP coursework in high school with strikingly excellent results only to learn none of their work would transfer into their college for anything but an elective.  In these cases, students are likely found repeating the coursework on the collegiate level.  On the other hand, I’ve known others who have taken enough dual enrollment courses while in high school to find themselves beginning college as a social freshman, but academic junior!  In this case, they have shaved off four semesters of college tuition amounting to tens of thousands of dollars in savings.

Truth is, this subject is a difficult one to hash out.  “Do I or don’t I?”  It is definitely a legitimate question, but before you go as far as to signing up for one or the other, consider your future!  Do you have a short list of potential colleges or universities?  If so, take a look at each of their requirements and collectively design a plan that could meet all or most.  As with any major decision in life, you must have a plan!




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