When talking about earning college credits early, usually the first two avenues that come to mind are CLEPs and Dual Enrollment. Both of these are relatively inexpensive ways to get some credit and are probably the most accepted at a majority of American colleges. However, both come with their own set of pros and cons. So before you jump right in to a dual enrollment situation, it's always best to weigh out the positives and negatives.
For those not familiar with what dual enrollment is, here's a general definition: dual-enrollment is a program that provides the opportunity for students in high school to take college-level courses. The courses may be offered on the community college campus ("CC") or right at the high school. More and more high schools are offering this than ever before and more students are taking advantage of the opportunity to earn some college credits.
- Dual enrollment could potentially save you thousands in tuition costs since most dual classes are significantly cheaper per-credit-hour than at a traditional college
- You can get a taste of what college and campus life feel like while still being at home
- You may be able to take classes that will help direct you toward what you want to major in or what you are passionate about
- You can interact with college students, professors, and alumni
- You get direct access to experienced instructors, advanced courses, and the college resources like equipment, labs, and facilities
- Earning college credit while in high school may help you graduate college on time (or early)
- Some courses are available online and can be done from the comfort of your home
- Many districts offer a certain amount of dual enrollment classes for free per semester
- Could take many classes that you are not comfortable doing at home (like lab classes- no blood on the dining room table!)
- Could be a fantastic experience for your student
- It looks great on your high school transcript and makes you stand out for college admissions- may give you a competitive edge
- Vocation classes can also be taken as dual enrollment and get you closer to certification
- It could be stressful adding on an extra load to your already busy schedule- don't overload
-The grades you get in your courses DO go on your transcript/permanent record so you have to be fairly certain you will do well in the class
- Some colleges may not accept the credits you have earned through some of your courses (this is when it is a good idea to work "backwards"- Know what outside credits your college will accept beforehand!) I have heard many stories of students whose dual credits DID NOT transfer over when they thought they would.
- Though the class may be free, you may still have added expenses (like school fees, parking, textbook fees, software expenses, etc...)- and remember that textbooks can get VERY expensive!
- Dual enrollment may not be available in all areas
- Your YOUNG student will be on a college campus with many older students and adults
- You are on the teacher's schedule (it is not self-paced)- you have to be on campus when the class is in session, have assignments done at certain times, and take tests when told- and for many students who are young, parents are required to remain on campus as well (and don't forget the drive to and fro!)
- There are a limited amount of courses a student can take
- Some districts are quite expensive and don't really save you much (if any) money at all
- You as a parent do not have control over the course content, material, or instruction
- You may get stuck with a professor that's a "dud" or one that undermines your values/beliefs at every chance possible
Personally, my son never took a dual enrollment class and only 5 CLEP tests. He earned his credits in a variety of other ways that meshed better with his learning style. There were a few reasons why we decided against dual enrollment. I felt he was too young to be on a campus at that time (he started when he was 12), he learned better in a self-paced type setting, I didn't want to be driving him back and forth (he was too young for a driver's license) or have to stay on campus with him, in our district we were limited to two classes a semester and at the the time there was an age restriction (and my son was too young), by the time he was old enough he had already accumulated about 60 credits and none of the classes he needed were even offered for dual enrollment!
Just as with anything you are about to jump into, it's always best to ask yourself the hard questions about WHY you want to do whatever it is and weigh the pros and cons of doing it. Every family and student is different with different goals and learning styles. Maybe what works for one won't work for another. Only you can decide what is right for your student and situation. But, I always say, that's what's so great about having so many different options- there is something out there for everyone. Dual enrollment is just one of those options.
Check out my FaceBook page "College Out of the Box" for other methods to earning college credits as well as my website for my Master list of ways.