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Jun 07 2016
by Suzanna Price

Settling the Debate: AP vs. Dual Enrollment

By Suzanna Price - Jun 07 2016

Before I begin, I must clarify that I am from Georgia, and so all of my experiences are based upon the Georgia system for Dual Enrollment and AP classes, and some things may vary from state to state. For example, in the state of Georgia, a high school student can take Dual Enrollment college classes for free so long as they are academic, or can take electives at a reduced cost. This may not be the case in other states, but as a Georgia high school student, this is my story.

AP classes have traditionally been the way to go for academically advanced high school students that want to get ahead and earn some college credits. Standing for Advanced Placement, students in an AP class will generally take the class all year (rather than a semester), with college-level assignments throughout the year to prepare the student for the AP test at the end of the year. AP tests are graded on a scale of 1-5 and if a student scores well, they have proven they know enough about the material to be given a college credit for the class.

Dual Enrollment, however, guarantees a credit if you pass the class. This is where a student will apply for admission (usually with lowered admission requirements) to a college, and if accepted, they will take a certain number of classes there during the day rather than at high school. The student will get both a college and high school credit for the class, essentially knocking out two birds with one stone.

As I was researching the differences, I noticed many, many articles and forums on the subject - it seems to be a widely considered debate. So, to answer the long-asked question: Do colleges like AP or Dual Enrollment better? The answer you probably didn’t want to hear: it varies.

Although it may seem less appealing to take an AP class, not knowing how well you will do on the test or if your dream college will accept AP credits, the truth is, 68% of U.S. colleges will accept credit for a 3 on the AP test. There are only 8 universities in the country who will deny any AP credit, and statistically, you have a 50% chance of passing the test (according to a study done by College Board recently).

However, there are still some colleges that do prefer dual enrollment over AP credits. For those who tend to struggle a little more than others in AP and Honors classes, a regular-level dual enrollment class may be the better option. You can still get college credit, but not over-do it with the stress you may have gotten from an AP class.

The option you choose really depends on your personal needs and situation. But, who’s to say you can’t do both? Personally, I'm doing both this semester, and I can’t say that I regret it. I chose to do Dual Enrollment to save myself time and money when I go to college next year (the more credits I have, the less classes I have to pay for), and I’m taking one AP class at my high school, because my school requires half of our classes to be taken locally.

Honestly, I prefer dual enrollment to regular high school, because it feels like I am getting more out of my day while learning more in the process. I am lucky enough to have 3-4 options for Dual Enrollment classes where I am from because we happen to have that many colleges within driving distance. I chose a local private university, Reinhardt University, because it seemed to be the best fit for me personally.

At Reinhardt, I had a 9am class every morning, allowing me time to sleep in a little more than I used to for regular high school. At 10am, my class would end and I would have about an hour to spend studying or catching up on assignments before I went to my high school classes at 11:30. I took Journalism and AP Chemistry at my high school – Journalism being related to my future major in college and AP Chemistry because my future professors at Mercer University advised me to get through my science credits as soon as possible.

Despite the seemingly hectic schedule, I felt like I’d never had so much time and freedom. With Dual Enrollment, you can set up your schedule to be at whatever times you need/want, whether you prefer 8ams or 6pms. You have a wider selection of classes to choose from, most of which are free (or at least 50% off, for nonacademic classes) and you can find out what college is really like before you make the big leap to full-time college. You can begin developing your study habits, see what kind of classes work best for you, and make a more informed college decision your senior year.

Even when my experience as a Dual Enrollment student had just begun, I felt like I had already begun preparing myself for college. I learned more about the nature of the classes and began developing better study habits because of it. Of course, the pressure was on, because if I failed a Dual Enrollment course in the second semester of my senior year, I would not have time to make up the credit before graduation. However, the courses really weren’t as bad as I imagined once I learned that you do have to put a lot more effort into studying for university classes than high school classes.

I would highly recommend either option to a student looking to get ahead in high school, but I have to say I favor Dual Enrollment. It opens students up to a whole new world of academics and allows them to slowly ease into the college experience rather than being thrown in full force after they graduate high school. It teaches them to be more mature and responsible about their school work and improves their time management skills and study habits. 

Lead Image Credit: Unsplash via Pixabay 

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Suzanna Price - Mercer University

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