AP vs. Dual Enrollment: Which is Better?

Many students are eager to get a jumpstart on their college education while they’re still in high school. And today, that’s becoming all the more possible, with Advanced Placement (AP) and dual enrollment courses. 

 

If both options are available to you, which one do you choose? What are the advantages and disadvantages of the programs? Let’s take a closer look.

 

What Are AP classes?

 

The College Board’s AP program includes courses across English, the arts, math, sciences, history, foreign languages, and other topics. Each year-long course mirrors a semester-long college class. 

 

At the end of the course, you may take a standardized exam evaluating your knowledge of and skills in the discipline, graded on a scale of 1 to 5. Many colleges award credit for scores of 4 or 5 for APs in certain subjects. Others may grant credit for scores of 3 or above. 

 

Top colleges generally don’t award credit, but some use AP scores for course placement purposes.

 

What Are Dual Enrollment Classes?

 

Similarly, dual enrollment (or dual credit) programs allow students to earn college credit while they’re still in high school. Generally speaking, high schools partner with community colleges or local universities to offer college-level courses at the high school or online. Sometimes, students will take the courses at the college itself, with other college students. 

 

If you participate, you’ll be awarded a grade and may receive college credit, without needing to take a special exam (like in the AP program).

 

Reasons to Choose AP Classes

 

1. They are more widely recognized and accepted by colleges.

 

While both programs have been around for decades, AP courses and exams are still more generally accepted by colleges, perhaps because of the standardized, rigorous curriculum. 

 

2. They’re more convenient.

 

In some cases, you might be required to drive to a local college to take dual enrollment courses. AP courses, meanwhile, are taught at your high school.

 

3. They are generally more academically rigorous.

 

Community colleges tend to have less rigorous curricula than that offered through the AP program. The exception to this is if you’re taking a course not available in your high school, such as multivariable calculus, or if the course you’re taking is at a university known for particular rigor in that topic (i.e. taking a STEM course at Georgia Tech).

 

Reasons to Choose Dual Enrollment

 

1. You can take classes not available in your high school.

 

Dual enrollment makes it possible for you to go beyond your high school curriculum and advance to higher levels in certain subjects. You can also explore subjects that may not even be available in the AP program.

 

2. Some states have guaranteed credit transfers for in-state public universities.

 

One example is Ohio’s College Credit Plus. The program has a Transfer to Degree Guarantee, meaning that many of the credits earned at an Ohio public college are guaranteed to transfer to any other Ohio public college. 

 

Meanwhile, you aren’t guaranteed to earn college credit with AP exams, even if you receive a high score on your exam. (Plus, AP exams cost extra money at $93-123 a pop.) Policies vary by the university and the course. 

 

3. You’ll get a feel for college-level classes.

 

If you’re taking courses at a college you’re considering attending, you’ll get a feel for the classes at that school. You’ll also get the chance to meet your potential future peers and professors, helping you decide if the school is a good fit for you.

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The Bottom Line

 

If both AP and dual enrollment options are available to you, APs are usually the safer choice. Not only could you potentially earn college credit, but you’ll also be exposed to rigorous coursework. This will demonstrate to admissions committees that you’re willing to take a challenging curriculum.

 

However, if you’re planning to go to college in-state and are positive that you’ll be able to transfer credit, then dual enrollment is a good option for you. Just make sure to check the rules about earning college credit in your state.

 

And if you’re curious about your chances of admission to a given college, take a look at CollegeVine’s Chancing Engine. Not only will you find out how likely you are to be admitted to more than 500 schools in the United States, but you’ll also get tips to improve your profile. Best of all, it’s free!

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Laura Berlinsky-Schine
Senior Blogger at CollegeVine
Short bio
Laura Berlinsky-Schine is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University, where she majored in Creative Writing and minored in History. She lives in Brooklyn, New York and works as a freelance writer specializing in education. She dreams of having a dog.