Dual Enrollment in High School and College

Earning College Credit in High School

Meeting a College Recruiter
asiseeit/E+/Getty Images

The term dual enrolled simply refers to enrolling in two programs at once. This term is often used to describe programs designed for high school students. In these programs, students can begin working on a college degree while still enrolled in high school.

Dual enrollment programs can vary from state to state. The names may include titles such as "dual credit," "concurrent enrollment," and "joint enrollment." 

In most cases, high school students in good academic standing have the opportunity to take college courses at a local college, technical college, or university. Students work with their high school guidance counselors to determine eligibility and decide which courses are right for them.

Typically, students must meet eligibility requirements to enroll in a college program, and those requirements may include SAT or ACT scores. Specific requirements will vary, just as entry requirements vary among universities and technical colleges.

There are advantages and disadvantages to enrolling in a program like this.

Advantages to Dual Enrollment

  • You can get a jump start on your college plans. By earning college credit while still in high school, you may be able to reduce the time and money you'll spend in college.
  • In many cases, a portion of the dual college/high school course tuition is paid for by the state or the local school board.
  • The dual enrollment courses are sometimes offered right in your high school. This enables students to become familiar with the work load of a college course in the comfort of a familiar setting.
  • Some colleges offer dual enrollment via the Internet.

Disadvantages to Dual Enrollment

It is important to look into the hidden costs and risks you may face once you've entered a dual enrollment program.

Here are a few reasons why you should proceed with caution:

  • Students may receive a textbook allowance, but others may have to pay for any textbooks. The cost of college books can be daunting. For instance, a college-level science book can cost more than one hundred dollars. You may want to research the cost of textbooks before you sign up for a specific course.
  • If college courses are offered only on the actual college campus, the student will be responsible for travel to and from the campus. Consider the cost of transportation. You have to factor travel time into your time management considerations. Your tests can be more challenging, and you may suddenly have less time to study for them!
  • College courses are rigorous, and students can get in over their heads sometimes. College professors expect increased maturity and responsibility from students. Be prepared! By signing up for college courses before you’re ready, you may end up with poor grades—and those will stay on your college record forever. 
  • Bad grades can wreck your college plans. After you sign up for a college course and you start to feel like you're slipping behind, there are only two ways out: withdraw from the course or finish the course with a grade. Remember that your ultimate dream college will see both of these when you apply. Failing grades can make you ineligible for your dream college. Withdrawing from a course could make you ineligible to graduate from high school on time!
  • Many college scholarships are designed for freshmen. If you take too many college courses while you're in high school, you could make yourself ineligible for some scholarships.
  • Whenever you sign up for college credit courses, you are officially beginning your college career. That means you will establish an official record wherever you take courses, and you will have to provide college transcripts of those courses whenever you enter a new college—for the rest of your life. Whenever you change colleges, you will need to provide transcripts to a new college.

If you're interested in a program like this, you should meet with your high school guidance counselor to discuss your career goals.