Let's talk about a popular subject:
Everyone seems to be doing it. And it sounds amazing: take inexpensive or even free classes at college that meet both your high school and college credit requirements.
Yet in my 12 years as a college prep consultant I have seen many, many families that rushed into signing their teen up for dual enrollment before they had a plan in place, and ended up shocked when they realized the credits weren't all they were hyped up to be when a college wouldn't accept their credits, or just counted them for electives and made the teen take the general studies classes again (boy is that a downer), or even realized too late that their teen wasn't ready for college-level work and was permanently stuck with a low grade on their college transcript.
Dual enrollment is a great tool for specific situations. But it can also way overpromise and underdeliver in other circumstances. So if college credit early is your goal, here are the 4 questions you need answered before you sign up for a dual enrollment class:
Question 1: Does Your Teen Have a Plan?
First off, do you have a plan? Does your teen have an idea of a career/major and a short list of colleges he or she is considering? Because if not, I hate to break it to you but it honestly is probably to early to start dual enrollment.
You see the next three questions have to be answered by each college your teen is considering, and if they don't have that narrowed down yet then you can't move any further. What if your teen goes a route that doesn't require a college degree? What if they apply to a school that doesn't accept dual enrollment, or only counts the credits as electives? Then you're stuck, and have likely wasted time, money and energy.
So if you don't have a clear plan of where your teen is headed, it's probably better to hold off.
NOTE: Looking for help developing a plan? Schedule a FREE 30-minute consultation with me to discuss your situation and the different resources UniversityReady offers to help set your teen up for success!
Question 2: Will The Credits Transfer?
Okay these next three questions need to be answered by the college your teen will ultimately transfer to. If they are still considering multiple schools then these questions need to be answered by each school, and they start with "will the credits from [school you dual enrolled at] transfer to your school?" The office that will typically answer this question will either be the Admissions Office or the Office of the Registrar (depends upon the school), so search for that office and the college's name on google to locate a phone number.
The reason this question is important is there are many times the credit wont transfer. Sometimes the dual credit school does not have the accreditation the other school is looking for. Sometimes a college is just picky. I have seen some schools that do not accept any dual enrollment credit. Some schools will not award credits that are in your major or that you have to take a series of (best to stay away from those as a general rule). So you always need to ask each school first, "will the credits transfer?"
Question 3: Will The Credits Count?
But transferring credits is not enough. Credits can transfer, but not be counted towards the general studies that you were hoping for.
"Oh, I see you took English 1010, but we require English 1100, so we'll give you an English elective and you will have to take our Freshman English class."
I've seen that happen many, many times. It's frustrating to the teen. Frustrating to the parent. And goes against the very reason you were doing dual enrollment in the first place, so before you sign up you need to ask every school "will this credit transfer and will the credit count towards my general studies requirements?"
Question 4: Can I Get That In Writing?
Hate to say this, but I have also seen multiple instances where a very eager admissions counselor advised a family that credit would both transfer and count, only to find out when it came time to do so that they had been "misinformed." It happens, so you want to make sure after you get questions 2 and 3 answered, that you have something to back up the response you receive. Ask to receive an email confirming that [such and such class] will transfer and count towards [such and such requirement]. Or ask if there is a written policy agreement (some schools have transfer arrangements that are already established). Get something to prove that the credit will count so that you aren't stuck later on.
I know that may sound like a lot, and it is. The reality is, most families don't get those four questions answered before they jump ahead and sign up for dual enrollment, and to be honest in those cases it is a gamble.
Of course there are exceptions. You might already know that you plan on attending the same institution that you will dual enroll through for the rest of college. In that case you already know the credit will count, you just need to be sure that is the route you plan on taking.
Or your primary goal for dual enrollment might not be the credit. I believe there is a strong case to be made to take dual enrollment classes just to be familiar with the college setting and college-level requirements. Most people will tell you that their biggest mistakes in college happened in the first year, and getting a couple of classes under your belt while still at home and having the support and structure of your parents is a wise route for many students. This is a perfectly appropriate reason to sign up for dual enrollment, and if this is your goal then by all means move ahead (I just wouldn't do this for many classes, one or two would be sufficient for most students).
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Is your teen planning to dual enroll? Do you have additional questions about the process? Let me know in the comments below!
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