What Is Dual Enrollment?

What is Dual Enrollment

What Is Dual Enrollment?

Published September 30, 2018 | Last Updated July 30th, 2023 at 08:43 am

What is Dual Enrollment

As a parent, you want to set your student up for success in high school, college, and beyond.

While it is true that many students already have a lot on their plates, and what they do have is enough for them to handle, there are others who search for more challenges.

Dual enrollment can be looked at as an additional challenge

 Essentially, it allows high school students to take college classes at a local community college or university while they are still enrolled in high school.

It is like attending two different schools at the same time. 

This can help your student get a jump start on core college credits so that they can graduate college on time – or even early.

Generally, a student must be in at least 10th grade to dual enroll. Depending on the high school your student attends, and the rules at local colleges, they may have to be juniors or seniors.

Each state has their own rules about dual enrollment as well. 

For example, Washington State has a program that allows high school juniors and seniors to attend college tuition-free and have the credits count for both high school and college credit. 

There can be minimum test scores or a minimum high school GPA required, as well.

So, it’s imperative that any student interested in dual enrollment makes sure they understand the rules in their own state.

Should you also look into dual enrollment? Will it benefit your student? Or will it simply add more stress to a full schedule?

Here’s what you need to know about how dual enrollment works and whether it is a good choice for your family.

Benefits of Dual Enrollment

By taking advantage of dual enrollment, your student may be able to gain college credit at a much lower cost than usual. In fact, in some states the classes are free!

The credits that are earned may apply at the college where your student attended. They may also be transferable to other schools, depending on the school.

Sometimes, dual enrollment classes are available online. This can allow your student to get core classes out of the way without having to drive to the college or university.

In our Paying for College 101 Facebook group, most parents and others have seen students with dual enrollment credit graduate college early – which saves money!

“My son did 3 dual classes and he started college with 9 credits already. He will be graduating early because of it. Plus it saved us money because he didn’t have to pay for those classes in college.”

Early graduation isn’t the only benefit…

“There is more to it than just graduating in less than 4 years. My son who has completed 18 hours consisting of electives and math has no problems navigating email and Blackboard/LMS, communicating with instructors when he has a problem, finding and purchasing his own textbooks.

He also understands that grade-wise, the structure is different; he has fewer chances to bring his grade up and homework doesn’t count like it used to.

He even had to deal with class stress while taking summer classes which gave him an opportunity to learn how to deal with that stress in a controlled environment.” –Caroline

Drawbacks to Dual Enrollment

Keep in mind that dual enrollment is a commitment – the classes may affect your student’s high school GPA and carry forward into your child’s college GPA. If they get a B or lower grade, it can make it difficult to maintain college tuition scholarships that are GPA-based.

If other extracurriculars are taking a lot of your student’s time, it may be better to skip dual enrollment.

The pressure of trying to do well in a college class can be a lot to carry when your child is also focused on finishing high school, participating in sports, and more.

Some parents are concerned about their students rushing through school, however, and some think that sometimes dual enrollment expectations are overblown.

“My son could easily graduate a semester early, possibly a year early with a semester or two with a lot of credits, but we keep telling him to slow down and not rush to get into the “real world”, since after college, it is ALL the real world and there is no going back!” –Karen

“Rarely do you get college/university credit for all of those dual enrollment credits. Secondly, rarely are all of those dual enrollment credits applicable to the student’s degree plan.

So sometimes it’s time wasted. My nephew… regrets missing out on sports, childhood friends, youth time, etc.

Now that he applied to veterinary school he is being told that he must go back and retake some of those dual enrollment classes to help bring his GPA up enough to even be considered. Please think twice.” –Denise

College Credit in High School: Dual Enrollment vs. AP Classes

If your student is looking to get ahead, you’ve probably heard that AP classes can be used for college credits. So which is better – dual enrollment or AP?

The answer will vary depending on your student and state. If your state has strict rules surrounding dual enrollment, AP may be an easier option.

In addition, if your student isn’t sure where they plan to attend college, there’s no way to be sure that credits will transfer easily from dual enrollment to your child’s post-secondary education.

At some colleges, if the class counts for high school credit it cannot also be counted toward a college degree.

“My son went into college with 30 credits from APs. He was able to take a lighter load the first year and will likely graduate a semester early. It worked out well for him.” –Gayle

Of course, AP has its own drawbacks – it’s not a true taste of college life.

AP classes are held every day, where college classes are often two or three times a week, with a lot of reading and studying expected between classes.

Also, if your student isn’t a good test taker, the AP exam can put a lot of pressure on them.

Instead of being graded on how they’ve done during the semester, they are graded entirely on how they perform on one single day.

Ultimately, only you and your student can decide what’s best. AP and dual enrollment both have great benefits and a few drawbacks.

Dual Enrollment Courses

What kinds of courses can your student take under dual enrollment?

The focus is on general education requirements, which can include:

  • Humanities
  • English
  • Mathematics
  • Social Studies
  • Science

Many students focus on taking general studies courses that they can “get out of the way” so that they can focus on their major when they get to college. This is a great strategy, as long as they understand that these classes are not necessarily “easy As.”

College classes can be as hard or harder than high school AP classes.

Expect a lot of reading and writing between meetings.

Most college students take four or five classes at once – a high schooler may be taking six or seven, with several being AP.

However, if the credits transfer, it can be a great way to get general education requirements taken care of, or to explore subjects that your student has a specific interest in.

“You just have to be educated in how you go about it. All of my sons DE credits are transferring to his degree to our university. You just need to plan and have a little foresight.

We made sure to get all the information from both schools and knew what classes would work and what wouldn’t.

Of course some colleges won’t except all the credits, but if you develop a plan, it can work out nicely.” –Anna

Choosing a College With Dual Enrollment in Mind

If your student chooses to pursue dual enrollment, you’ll want to focus on college choices that are the most likely to accept the credits.

Of course, this is secondary to choosing a school that is generous with aid. Education is never “wasted,” and finding a generous school can save you more money than applying dual enrollment credits!


Use R2C Insights to help find merit aid and schools that fit the criteria most important to your student. You’ll not only save precious time, but your student will avoid the heartache of applying to schools they aren’t likely to get into or can’t afford to attend.  

Other Articles You Might Like:

10 Ways a Parent Can Help Their Student Prepare for College

How to Motivate Juniors to Start the College Process

What Is Better: AP or IB?




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