The opportunity to take college classes for free and spend time on a college campus while in high school sounds pretty sweet, but is it the right option for you?
In the ever growing sea of advanced classes, there is the less talked about dual enrollment program. Different states call their programs different names. According to the Louisiana Department of Education, dual enrollment is “the simultaneous enrollment of a student at both high school and college in which the student receives credit on both their high school and college transcripts for the same course.” If you take all of your classes through dual enrollment, you might not spend much time at your high school.
Community colleges, four year colleges and universities offer these types of programs. They are usually for juniors and seniors in high school, and sometimes there are rank or GPA requirements to be admitted. A study done showed dual enrollment programs produce “positive outcomes on such measures as high school graduation and college enrollment rates, college grade point averages and progress toward college completion.”
Before you commit to any programs and start daydreaming about starting college before your classmates, consider these five things:
1. Will your dream college accept the credits you have earned?
Earning college credits while still in high school can give you more flexibility in college for another major or a minor. It’s better to play it safe and check, than to be accepted and told that the credits you have already earned don’t count. It also helps to keep syllabi from your college courses to assist you in explaining your classes were at the college level. Most colleges have a page on their website explaining their policies for transferring college credit, but if you can’t find it, don’t hesitate to contact the admissions office.
2. Do your college classes meet all of your high school’s graduation requirements?
Stay in regular contact with your counselor so you can confirm that you’ll still graduate on time. You wouldn’t want to find out you can’t graduate with your class just because you didn’t pay attention to the details of your attempt to challenge yourself. Colleges offer a larger range of classes to pick from; anything from Cultural Anthropology to Economics could be used to meet you social studies requirements. Also pay attention to the number of credits. The four credit Intro to Political Science class you take at your local community college might only count as two credits at your high school.
3. Will you still have time in your schedule for extracurriculars?
Maybe it’s an easy decision to quit being a member of the Spanish Club you rarely attend, but if taking college classes means giving up your varsity sport position, you have a lot to think about. Depending on your schedule, you may be able to have all your classes in the morning so you can still make it back to your high school for extracurriculars. Don’t panic! Some colleges will allow high school students attending classes on campus to join clubs and intramural sports run by the college.
4. How will you get to and from campus?
Some programs provide transportation for you, but be sure to find out the specifics of your program. If you have a car or your parents are willing to drive you, transportation probably isn’t an issue for you. On the other hand, if you’re like me and have spent most of your life on a city bus, it’s time to take a look at those bus schedules. If you’re planning to still do extracurriculars at your high school, it’s also helpful to see if you’d actually get there in time.
5. Are you okay with missing out on part of the high school experience?
As important as it is to challenge yourself academically, take some time to think about the social aspect. You will only have two or less years left at your high school. Will you miss eating in the lunchroom with your friends while you rush to do homework for your next class? Do you feel ready to start college with students older than yourself? Remember, you only get to be in high school once!
Ultimately, you’re the only person who knows if you are ready for college classes. If you don’t feel comfortable taking college classes full-time, some programs will allow you to take half of your classes at your high school and the other half at a college. Compare all your options and you’ll be able to make the best choice for you!