Dual enrollment provides college experience: Students should take advantage of it

February 14, 2024 — by George Hu
Graphic by George Hu
Flexibility and a wide range of interesting classes are reasons to consider this option.
Flexibility and a wide range of interesting classes are reasons to consider this option.

It’s a time-worn story at the school: Each year, in an effort to bolster college applications and resumes, hundreds of bleary-eyed, overstressed students overload themselves by taking multiple Advanced Placement (AP) or honors courses. 

There’s no doubt these classes are helpful for ambitious students. Their weighted GPAs go up, and they’re more prepared for college due to the challenging nature of the courses. 

However, other options, like the often overlooked dual enrollment courses, can be equally or more beneficial in improving college applications and bring other benefits like flexible scheduling.

Dual enrollment allows students to complete college-level courses at local community colleges such as West Valley and De Anza and earn college credits, just like AP classes. Nonetheless, dual enrollment can be less time consuming and less stressful. Many students find earning college credit through dual enrollment is significantly easier. 

To actually waive college requirements through AP classes, students often need to score a 4 or a 5 score on AP exams, which requires much higher amounts of study time and a thorough understanding of the course material. AP curriculums also take an entire school year to complete. 

By contrast, students only need to pass a dual enrollment class to get college credit. Additionally, dual enrollment curriculums take only 15 weeks and can be taken any time of the year (such as during summer break), offering greater efficiency and flexibility. 

The class times of dual enrollment courses can vary, with some being in the early morning and others being in the evening. Other classes are asynchronous, allowing students more flexibility in completing assignments at their own pace compared to AP courses.

Dual enrollment also allows students to gain exposure to classes taught by instructors in a university setting. This helps smooth students’ transition from high school to college by getting used to learning from instructors’ more lecture-based teaching styles and getting used to more independence when learning the course material, both of which are typical of a college experience.

Courses catalogs offered under dual enrollment for high school students have a more diverse range of subjects and more advanced subjects beyond the limited AP classes. For example, dual enrollment can expose students to niche college-level digital forensics classes and photography classes and more advanced college-level physics courses.

College Board does not offer AP courses that cover many of these fascinating topics. I’ve done this myself, as I took Differential Equations at West Valley this past summer. The class was scheduled to take place from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday for six weeks, giving me more time in the morning to get ready. 

The amount of time I needed to spend outside of class to do homework was around two to three hours per day. Although the course covered advanced math topics and moved at an extremely fast pace due to the condensed summer curriculum, I found myself able to handle the material. In my experience, the advanced STEM courses at Saratoga High were more challenging, showcasing that dual enrollment courses may be quite manageable for most students here.

No matter how much of a burden dual enrollment courses are, California public colleges and universities will give an extra grade point in admissions for dual enrollment courses when calculating the GPAs of their applicants.

These benefits highlight that motivated students should not just consider taking AP or honors courses, but also consider taking dual enrollment courses.

2 views this week