Our story: As our oldest son’s freshman year of high school neared completion, we began contemplating the fact that we only had three years to prepare him for the transition not only to college life, but also life in the U.S., and a schooling environment vastly different from home school. A home-schooling friend in the states had just informed us that community colleges were allowing high school students to take dual credit classes their junior and senior years. Not wanting to wait and then risk losing an opportunity to try this, we inquired about this program at San Antonio Community College in Texas. They told us that if our son could pass the entrance exam, they would allow him to sign up for one course during one of the summer terms. We got online and chose the course and viewed student comments on various teachers. We wanted the experience to not just be about academics or even just experiencing a college classroom, but we wanted it to be a positive experience – feeding our son’s enthusiasm for going to college in three years. The teacher and students loved having him in the class, he got an “A,” and he had a great two months with his grandparents. Overall, we were very pleased that we had sent him. Will we do it again? You bet! We won’t be able to send him this coming summer, but hope to send him the summer after his junior year. He was able to get credit towards his high school diploma and his freshman year of college for History 101.
Dual enrollment allows high school students to enroll in college courses for credit prior to high school graduation. These credits are applied to the high school diploma and towards college graduation. They are transferable to other colleges and universities. The enrollment policies vary from state to state, and sometimes even from college to college. Some will allow sophomores to enter, whereas many only allow juniors and seniors. Most require the student to pass an entrance exam and talk with a guidance counselor. Some states will even cover the cost of tuition if the course is taken during a normal spring or fall term.
Among the many benefits of dual enrollment is the ease of transitioning from high school to college. Students get to see what it is like without being overwhelmed. This is especially beneficial for students being raised in other cultures, home-schooled, or coming from national schools. It allows them to compare college and high school classes, as well as professors and teachers. For those schooled at home, this allows them to take science, lab, and language classes in a more equipped environment. One of the best benefits, though, is accumulating credits for college and high school simultaneously. This adds up to less time and money spent in college after graduating from high school.
There are some things that one contemplating dual enrollment should consider. First, not all colleges and universities will accept all dual enrollment credits. Second, in order to qualify for state paid tuition, the courses need to be taken during a fall or spring term. Third, permission from the high school must be given to the college before they will accept a student for dual enrollment. Fourth, a student has to pass the placement exam before being allowed to take the course. Fifth, if a student receives credit for many dual credit classes, some scholarships and colleges will treat that student as a transfer student instead of an entering freshman.