Should I Take Dual-Enrollment Classes in High School? How to Decide if Dual-Enrollment is Right for You

There's normal classes and dual-enrollment classes for every subject, so how do you choose?

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Registering for next year’s classes can be a stressful event. Especially when you have so many options to choose from. There are your “normal” classes, but there are also honors, Advanced Placement courses (AP courses), and dual-enrollment (PSEO) classes. And that’s for every subject.

How do you choose?!

That’s a hard question to answer. And I certainly can’t answer it for you. What I can do is give you a bit of information about dual-enrollment (college classes in high school), or PSEO (post-secondary enrollment option) courses.

What’s the difference?

If you choose take a dual-enrollment, or PSEO, class you’ll be taking a college class while still in high school. This means that instead of the normal workload associated with a high school class, you’ll be expected to spend 9 hours each week, on average, on just this single class. This includes 3 hours of in-class time and 6 hours of studying and homework. Don’t forget that this is on top of all the other classes you register for.

Something else to consider when deciding whether or not to take a PSEO course is where the class actually takes place. Unlike a regular high school class, PSEO classes can take place on a college’s main campus, at a satellite location, or online. So, if you don’t have a car, and your high school doesn’t provide transportation, signing up for an off campus class probably isn’t such a great idea.

On the other hand, if you choose to take a college-level class that’s offered online, you are responsible for pacing yourself and making sure all work is completed on time. These always seem like an awesome option at the time–you don’t have to sit in a classroom! In fact, you could sit at home on the couch in your pjs and listen to lectures on your iPad. But beware, unless you schedule the class into your normal routine, it is really easy to fall behind and quickly become overwhelmed at the end of the semester.

So, the big differences between regular classes and dual-enrollment options are:

  • The amount of work you will be expected to complete (and time it will take)
  • The location of the class (online, on campus, off campus, etc.)
  • Level of motivation required to succeed

5 Benefits of taking college classes during HS

1. If you take a few gen ed college classes while you’re in high school, you’ll have more time in your schedule to fill with classes you’re interested in during college. This means you could double major, study abroad, take more electives, or graduate college early.

2. In most cases, your high school will pay for (or help pay for) the college classes you take. This means you don’t have to pay the astronomical price charged per credit earned. Or, you might be paying only a small fraction of the bill. This could save you money in the long run, depending on which classes you choose to take, and how well you use your time.

3. Taking college classes, and having a few credits to your name, looks really good on a transcript. If you can get a good grade that is. Having college classes on your transcript shows application review teams that you can actually handle being a college student. Having a B in Oral Communications is better than getting an A in Creative Foods your senior year.

4. Dual-enrollment classes offer a greater challenge than most of your typical high school classes. If you are a student who thrives on continually learning and you like a fast-paced learning environment, this is a great option for you. Once you’ve taken every biology classes offered at your high school, what comes next? PSEO classes allow you to continue studying subjects you’re interested in.

5. One of the coolest things about dual-enrollment classes is that you can explore a wide variety of subjects, and you can do this while you’re still in high school. Think you’re interested in nursing? Try taking a medical terminology or patient care class. Maybe you’ll find out you love it, or perhaps it’s not the right career path for you after all. You could also take something kind of wild like ancient traditions of Mediterranean cultures, the options are pretty limitless.

Your high school can’t offer more classes than they have teachers to teach. PSEO classes are a great way to broaden your education before graduating high school. However, there are also things you need keep in mind before enrolling.

5 Warnings for Dual-Enrollment

1. Yes, if you take a college class while you’re still in high school, your school will usually foot most, if not all, of the bill. But, if you fail the class or withdraw after the drop deadline, that entire bill usually falls into your lap. Make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into or it could cost you anywhere from a couple hundred to a couple thousand dollars, depending on the college.

2. Having college credits on your high school transcript looks great–if you do well. Taking all college classes your senior year and getting all Ds will not look good. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Yes, it’s good to challenge yourself, but do so in moderation.

3. Keep financial aid in mind. If you accumulate too many college credits during high school, you may not be able to enter college as a freshman and that could impact scholarship opportunities.

4. Choose your classes wisely. If you think you know what you want to major in, in college, do not take all those classes during high school. For example, if you think you want to major in psychology, yes, taking an intro class is a great idea. What you don’t want to do is take abnormal psych, developmental psych, counseling psych, and behavioral psych before you even arrive on campus. Chances are you’ll have to retake them anyway. Talk to someone in admissions about how transferring credits works at their school.

5. If your plan is to go to a highly selective/Ivy League school they won’t transfer in your credits. Make sure you are keeping your college search in mind when you’re deciding which classes to register for. If you think you’re going to go to a Harvard, MIT, or other extremely selective school ask what their policies are about taking credits from other institutions. There’s a pretty good chance you’ll be starting fresh. So while it’s still good to have the experience of college classes in high school, it might not actually be benefitting you much. Taking AP classes might be better instead.

Unfortunately there is no specific list of classes that you have to take while in high school in order to study x in college. There is also no magical formula for choosing classes to get you into a certain college/university.

Talk to your school counselor, they’re there to help you. They also know the ins and outs of which higher ed institutions your high school partners with (i.e., which classes you can actually take where).

Remember, you still want to be able to enjoy high school. Find a good balance that works for you.

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