Many use their high school years to enhance their college experience. Whether you are seeking to get some college credits under your belt or challenge yourself academically, dual enrollment classes or AP classes are both incredible options. We sat down with our HS Counselor, Ben DeNooy, to discuss the differences between these options and why your high schooler might take one over the other.
What is Dual Enrollment?
Dual Enrollment classes are college-level courses that high school students take, earning college credit if they pass the course. Denver Christian is unique in that we are able to offer dual credit courses on our own high school campus. Furthermore, our dual credit classes are taught by our own faculty. (Most dual credit courses offered to high school students require them to attend classes on a college campus or online.)
Pros of Dual Enrollment Courses:
- Builds confidence for pursuing a college education
- Eliminates some of the “unknowns” about college
- Prepares students for the rigor of college coursework
- Students receive credit as long as they pass the course (not dependent on one exam)
- Courses are more affordable than standard tuition credit hours from college
Overall, dual enrollment is an opportunity for students to dip their toes into what college courses are like. Unlike AP, dual enrollment courses can mirror the daily assignments, discussions, and expectations of a traditional college course.
Cons of Dual Enrollment Courses:
- Not all dual credit courses are created equal – it all depends on the quality of education/accreditation of the institution granting the college credit
- Depending on the instructor, there may not be as many progress checks built into the course like AP has.
- Transit can be inconvenient if a student is traveling to a college campus
- Dual enrollment credit costs more than taking the AP exam
What is AP?
AP (advanced placement) are high school courses and exams which are run by the College Board. The program is centered around exam since the main goal of the class is to receive a high enough score to receive be exempt from the equivalent course in college. (For example, a student who receives a 3-4 on AP Lit or Lang could be exempted from ENG101/102 in college.)
Denver Christian currently has one official AP course. However, many of our high school courses provide similar content to AP classes, and students can take the AP exams for those subjects.
Pros of AP courses:
- Because AP is standardized by College Board, the curriculum will be the same across the board.
- There is a vast amount of resources available to students, like study and test prep materials.
- Very low cost (Less than $100 for an AP Exam)
Cons of AP Courses
- Colleges and universities are inconsistent on what scores are accepted.
- Some universities do not accept AP at all or limit how many AP classes a student can use to claim college credit
- Because AP is exam centric, it can be frustrating for students who do not test well
- Curriculum limits teacher’s autonomy and room for academic curiosity or creativity
- AP courses can cover too much material so quickly that the learning is shallow compared to other courses
- The rigorous pace can increase stress and anxiety
While AP classes can place so much emphasis on only one exam, dual credit courses provide a different type of learning.
Ben DeNooy explains, “On a recent college visit to a Christian liberal arts university, I met with the engineering department chair. He commented that in his freshmen calculus class, the students who most often struggle are the students who have been taught to learn to the test. These students have the biggest gaps in the conceptual understanding that is necessary for college-level calculus.”
A Unique Dual Credit Experience
We are immensely proud of our dual enrollment program. Our unique partnership with CCU and ability to teach courses on our own campus is rare. This eliminates many of the disadvantages of a typical dual enrollment setting. All CCU courses are accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, allowing them to transfer to the majority of colleges and universities worldwide. In addition, CCU’s curriculum rigor was ranked in the top 2% nationwide by the American Council of Trustees & Alumni. This means that our dual enrollment courses meet these prestigious criteria, allowing our students to accumulate highly rigorous and transferable criteria during their high school experience.
Beyond academic excellence, our dual enrollment courses allow teachers to maintain individuality and our faith vision in the curriculum. Students are not only experiencing a taste of a college course but one that also integrates our faith into the curriculum.
Which is better for me?
It totally depends on the student’s situation, their goals, and what is available at their school. Both options allow students to advance academically and potentially save time (and money!) in college.
Which is the right fit for you could vary depending on what university you want to attend, or what you want to study. If there are schools that you are considering, you can use the AP Credit Policy Search to see what courses/scores are accepted by universities across the US.
We are incredibly proud of our high school’s challenging and engaging curriculum. If your student is interested in taking AP tests, diving into dual enrollment courses, or has more questions, be sure to direct them to our counseling services!