Get Ahead by Taking College Courses in High School

Can’t wait to get started on your college degree? You’re in luck! As a high school student, there are several ways to take college courses before earning your diploma.

Here’s what you need to know about earning college credit before you toss your high school graduation cap and kiss those metal lockers goodbye forever.

Consider Dual Enrollment, AP Classes, and Concurrent Enrollment

Once you hit your junior year of high school, you likely start to hear college planning lingo like “AP scores” and “transferable credits.” All of this talk may sound confusing, but there’s no need to feel overwhelmed. Thankfully, there’s an easy way to look at it all.

Dual enrollment—or dual credit—courses are college courses that are taught at your high school by a qualified instructor. These courses are more rigorous than your typical high school curriculum, but they count for high school credit and college credit at the same time. Dual enrollment classes are similar to Advanced Placement (AP) classes in that they award you college credit while still in high school. Unlike AP classes, however, receiving credit from dual enrollment classes isn’t contingent on you passing a final standardized test.

Concurrent enrollment is another option for high school seniors. This enables students to take a college course in addition to their high school work. This type of enrollment requires special permission from both the high school and college, and classes taken will only count for college credit. Unlike a dual enrollment class, you may not have additional support from your high school (and high school teacher) when you do concurrent enrollment.

The Benefits of Taking College Courses in High School

There are many benefits associated with taking college courses alongside your high school classes. Consider these four advantages when researching your options:

1. Gives you a head start on college. Passing two to three college courses before high school graduation can save you a whole semester in undergraduate studies. Most dual credit courses cover common general education (GE) requirements, such as world history or biology. No matter what your major is, you will have to take these GE classes before you can move on to your major-specific course load. Dual enrollment classes help you accomplish your GE requirements sooner!

2. Helps you choose your major. Maybe you initially wanted to be a nurse, but your college-level biology class led you to develop another interest. Or perhaps your college-level history course got you thinking about a different career field entirely. It’s normal to want to change your major after one or two semesters in college. Taking college-level courses in high school can help you see what classes you’re most passionate about, fine-tune your career dreams, and choose your major.

3. Prepares you for college-level work. It’s a good idea to ease into the transition of college-level work with the support of your high school. Enrolling in dual-credit classes allows you to experience the challenge of a college course while still having the help and guidance of your high school teacher.

4. Strengthens your high school GPA and transcript. Many high schools give special consideration to dual enrollment courses and AP classes, often weighing them on a 5.0 scale rather than a 4.0 one. This means that a grade from one of these classes will count for more points toward your GPA. When colleges look at your transcripts, they’ll also be able to see that you challenged yourself academically.

So, Should You Enroll in College-Level Courses?

Taking college courses in high school offers a lot of advantages, so the opportunity should be carefully considered. If you’re interested in experimenting with college-level curriculum, it’s important to speak with your high school academic counselor. Because rules vary by state, your counselor will be the best person to help you determine if this is the right path for you.

Hoping to attend Azusa Pacific University next year? The school maintains a generous transfer policy and works with many local high schools and community colleges. Explore APU’s website to see if your dual enrollment or AP classes could transfer to your future degree.