What Is Dual Enrollment In College And High School?

If the thought of taking college-level classes while in high school is appealing, dual enrollment might be for you. It’s a completely optional way to get college credits during your high school years. 

The motivation to do it is mostly around cost (or sometimes the need to take more advanced courses than a high school offers). The ability to knock out expensive credits before arriving on campus can both accelerate your graduation timeline and limit your out-of-pocket costs for a degree. 

Let’s explore the ins and outs of dual enrollment. 

What Is Dual Enrollment?

Dual enrollment, sometimes called dual credit, is a type of class that counts for both high school and college credit. Eligible high school students can take dual enrollment classes. If the student passes the class, the credit counts toward both their high school diploma and college degree. 

How Dual Enrollment Works

The appeal of dual enrollment is the ability to fulfill high school requirements and college coursework at the same time. But the exact mechanics of the program vary based on the school. 

Typically, students start by applying to a dual enrollment program. The student can pursue a Bachelor’s degree, Associate’s degree, or certificate. If accepted, students can take the available classes that suit their interests and strengths. 

Depending on the situation, classes can be taken through high school, online courses, or a local community college. The student must achieve a grade of at least a C to pass the class. Regardless of grades, it becomes a part of your college record. 

When it’s time to apply to college, the school may or may not accept dual enrollment credits. In-state public colleges are more likely to accept dual enrollment credit than out-of-state colleges or private universities. 

Dual Enrollment vs. AP Classes

Both dual enrollment and AP classes offer the chance to earn college credit as a high school student. However, the two types of classes are very different. 

Here’s a breakdown of the differences:


Dual enrollment classes are college courses made available to high school students. While some high schools have dual enrollment options on campus, many students must take these classes on a college campus or online. 

In contrast, Advanced Placement (AP) classes are exclusively taught by high school teachers. While AP classes are designed for college-level learning, students won’t have to take these classes online or through a community college. 

Course Length

Most dual enrollment courses last for a single semester, which equates to half the school year. In some cases, AP classes only last for a single semester. But AP classes often last for a full school year. 

The ability to take classes by the semester opens the door to more coursework opportunities. 


Students who pass a dual enrollment course with a C or better automatically receive college credit. If the college you choose to attend accepts dual enrollment credits, there is no extra testing requirement. 

However, students taking an AP course must pass a standardized exam at the end of the year. The college you plan to attend will determine the minimum score to receive credit. 


Dual enrollment requirements vary from state to state. Typically, only junior and senior high school students can pursue dual enrollment credits. But some states allow exceptions for gifted students. 

In certain states, like Alabama, Florida, and North Carolina, students must maintain a minimum GPA to stay in dual enrollment programs. For many, the requirement is a 3.0 unweighted GPA. 

Additionally, many states require students to obtain a written recommendation from a high school or college staff member. The recommendation should include why the student is ready for dual enrollment courses. 

Many dual enrollment programs also require parent permission, a minimum SAT score, completed course prerequisites, and any other requirements set by the administering college. 


The exact costs depend on where you live. In some cases, dual enrollment options are free through community colleges. 

According to Pearson, dual enrollment classes may range from free to $400 per class. Additionally, students may need to purchase expensive college textbooks. 

The average cost of a traditional college course is $926. With that, dual enrollment is often a more affordable option than traditional college coursework. 

Pros And Cons of Dual Enrollment

Every educational choice has advantages and disadvantages. Here’s what to keep in mind about dual enrollment. 

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