Dual Enrollment: A Complete Breakdown

Nejra Hojic 
Edited by Jordyn Banks
Published on
August 2, 2023

Dual enrollment consists of a high school student enrolling into and taking classes at a local, usually community college. It is accessible to most students; however, many aren’t aware of it. With that said, dual enrollment comes with pros as well as many cons. 

How to access dual enrollment programs: 

  • Certain ‘early college’ high schools will primarily focus on students in dual enrollment programs. However, this is not the only way to be a part of it. Most high schools will allow students with a certain GPA (usually around 3.0) to take college classes. Talk to your school counselor to find out if your school allows this, and even sign up for it. They will give you a form to fill out, and once you have completed it, simply enroll in the classes you want. 

Picking classes: 

  • College classes consist of units. One unit is worth a year of high school credit. Take courses with credit that are transferable to high school classes. An example would be taking a music class for elective credits or a science course for lab credits. Some schools will not allow you to take core subject classes (math, science, English) at colleges, but this varies from school to school. I recommend taking those classes during the summer when you have the most time to focus on that class.  


  • You can gain experience and learn about what it’s like to be in college. From picking classes to establishing good relationships with professors, you can do so while having extra guidance from school counselors. 

  • If you end up attending a state school or some other university that accepts transfer credits, depending on the number of classes that you took and the degree you got, you may be able to skip freshman year or even sophomore year of college. This will save you time and money and look especially impressive in future job applications and resumes. 

  • As mentioned, one college unit is worth a whole year of high school classes. By picking your classes strategically, you will get all the graduation requirements done much faster than others, allowing time to focus on other things. 

  • If you primarily attend a smaller school without many class options, taking college classes will allow you to explore new interests. If you want to learn more about art, most colleges offer painting, pottery, and art history classes, while some high schools may not have many options. This is also great for students looking to expand their understanding of a topic and reach a college level. 

  • Unlike AP classes, whether or not you get the credits for that class is not determined by a single test but rather by your performance in the entire class. Although some classes will have tests that hold more weight than others, your credit for the course will not ultimately be determined by a single one. This is important, especially for students who don’t typically do well when testing or those who get stressed out by the impact of a single AP test. 


  • This especially applies to summer classes but is not specific to them. Due to most classes being around 12 weeks (and summer ones usually around 6), you end up with much more material to learn in a shorter time frame. This can be difficult for a lot of students to keep up with. 

  • If you want to use the credits for an AA degree or an equivalent to transfer them into a university and skip a year or two, you may want to consider the university you will attend. Although it will impress admissions officers, not all schools accept dual enrollment transfer credits. It is essential to plan in advance for this. 

  • Grades from dual enrollment programs cannot be erased. Unlike with AP classes, you cannot choose whether you include it in your applications or gpa.  The grades you get from your college courses will impact your GPA for better or worse. However, failing a dual enrollment class will significantly lower your GPA. While retaking the class allows you to override the previous grade with some schools, that is not the case with all of them. While applying for certain universities, you must still include your original grade; some don’t accept the retake grade. Remembering this is important if you plan on challenging yourself with difficult college courses. 

  • Despite still being a high school student, you will be fully treated as a college student in dual enrollment programs. While this allows you to have responsibility for your education and the ability to gain an authentic college experience, it can be highly challenging for some people. You are usually given a syllabus at the beginning of the semester and dates for all the exams and tests. You will not be reminded of when and what to study, nor what to take notes on. Any questions you have must be emailed to the professors when taking virtual classes, which can be frustrating, especially if they are unresponsive. You often have to figure things out independently, plan your schedules and routines, and answer your questions. 

  • College classes can take time away from other extracurriculars. While some people are not too affected by this, others are. If you plan on dedicating a huge part of your college application to a sport, taking college classes will take time away from that sport. This is important, especially if you plan on attending a university that doesn’t accept these credits anyways. 

  • Although balancing college classes as a high school student sounds impressive, especially for universities, it is, after all, accessible to most high school students and very common for students to take at least a few college classes. That alone shouldn’t be the most significant part of your college applications since it alone isn’t super impressive. This is important to remember if you must pick between college classes, a sport, or some other extracurricular. 

My advice  

  • Take classes with friends. By doing this, you can receive help much faster than you would by emailing professors. It will also make the classes much more enjoyable. 

  • Ask upperclassmen about classes. Usually, high schools will have a range of juniors and seniors that are in dual enrollment. They will be able to provide you with the best insight when it comes to what classes to take at your local college and what professors to take them from. This is important because taking challenging classes from easy professors is much easier than taking easy classes from demanding professors. 

  •  Use “Rate My Professor.” This is a site where people rate their professors so that you can see helpful feedback on a course. It is useful if you aren’t aware of anyone else doing dual enrollment or when no one has taken a certain professor.

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