AP Classes vs. Dual Enrollment

In contemporary high schools, it is often possible for students intending on going to college to acquire a handful of college credits before they graduate. The two most notable programs are advanced placement (AP) and dual enrollment. AP classes are essentially college level courses where the student must pass a test on the respective subject at the end of the school year to determine if they qualify for credit. Dual enrollment programs allow students to attend classes at a local college while taking fewer classes in high school. Both programs have pros and cons to consider.

For AP courses, a student earning an A, B or C will receive an additional two points to their weighted GPA. While the final test is difficult and covers all material learned throughout the year, many colleges will grant three to four credits depending on the course taken and the score received. The added bonus is that it is completely free to take these classes and colleges are impressed by students taking on a rigorous schedule.

The major cons of an AP course revolve around the fact that, at the end of the day, it is still not a real college course. While secondary teachers are often very knowledgeable in their particular field, they spend considerably more time learning how to better manage their classrooms than gaining in-depth academic knowledge like a college professor. Furthermore, if a student does not receive a sufficient grade on the test, he or she will not receive college credit no matter what how well they did in the class itself.

Dual enrollment, on the other hand, provides students with access to an actual college course in order to earn credit. This means, not only more knowledgeable professors, but an exposure to a real college environment including testing procedures, group projects, lectures and following a syllabus verses having a teacher remind you constantly when an assignment is due. Also, like any college course, these classes last only one semester, and to receive credit, a student must simply pass the class with a C or better, rather than one stress-inducing test.

The downside of dual enrollment is that it is not as convenient. In order to get to the class itself, students may need to go back and forth from high school to college campuses every day. There is also the fact these courses will not give students any GPA boost. Also, many schools hold the student responsible to pay for the course and books out of pocket.

Both options give students a competitive edge in the eyes of a college admissions officer. Therefore, it is for each student and parent to decide which one best fits their needs.

Should I be Taking AP classes?

Taking AP classes during high school can give students an opportunity to earn college credits and often fulfill core requirements before ever arriving on campus. For exceptional students, AP classes can also provide a challenge and a great fit for their abilities. AP classes can challenge students and help to prepare for the SAT by helping you to learn new ways to work through information and preparing you for college level course material and test strategies.

Make a Commitment
While taking AP courses can be a wonderful choice, you should stay honest about how many classes you can manage in your academic schedule and how much work you have time for outside of the classroom. Studying for an AP test is time consuming and it is better to score well on one or two tests than to score poorly on four tests. In most cases, you will need a minimum of a three or four in order to be eligible for college credit.

Get All Your Information
If you can, talk to the teacher of the AP class before you enroll to learn about the course load, expectations, and how your teacher will prepare you for the exam. If you have a top college or top couple colleges, you may also want to find out their policy on AP credits so that you know how well you will need to score and also what classes the credits can replace in core curriculum.

Choose Classes Wisely
Choose AP classes in subject areas that you are interested in studying. You will be devoting large amounts of time to studying this material and may become frustrated if it’s not a subject you enjoy. Chances are, your high school offers AP classes in many different subjects, from environmental science to your foreign language. Choosing the right classes will help you to make the most of going in-depth in a college-level class.

Be Prepared for a Challenge
AP tests can fulfill college credit for a reason — they are college-level work. If you have a busy schedule and struggle to keep your grades high in regular classes, you may want to think twice about AP classes. It’s important to maintain a high GPA at the same time. You can expect to do more writing, learn how to better synthesize information, and learn to think as you would in a college class. If you’re up for a challenge and willing to work hard, AP classes can be great preparation for college.


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