Explained: Dual enrollment course vs AP classes

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Grace Drawdy

Clash of credits. Students are questioning the differences between Dual Enrollment Courses and AP Courses. Many misconceptions have circulated the SOFO community regarding both of these courses.

Grace Drawdy, Co-Associate Editor

Over the past few years, students have struggled with choosing which higher level class pathway is right for them. Some of these options include the Dual Enrollment and AP (Advanced Placement) pathways. There are many differences between them, however. Both Dual Enrollment and AP Courses challenge students academically and allow for students to work and achieve their goals for college and future career pathways. Both of these advanced learning opportunities for students allow for them to study and work for college course credits before graduating high school.

The College Board offers and oversees AP Courses, along with SAT and ACT Tests. The main goal of AP courses is to prepare high school students for college-level classes while providing them with transferable college credit. Schools with students enrolled in AP classes expect to perform at a higher level and College Board holds students to a higher standard than on-level and honors students. In comparison to other classes, AP classes delve into deeper subject matter and material. Students have the opportunity to take a cumulative exam at the end of the year covering all the material they learned over the course; if students score high enough on the exam, they may exempt the correlating course in college. This allows students to begin their college experience with college core credits. This route is more common for students than Dual Enrollment when looking solely on course enrollment numbers. According to the College Board, “2.7 million students are expected to take 4.9 million AP Exams.” While College Board took this report in 2017, the number of students taking AP grows each school year. The College Board also released reports for the 2018 school year. 

 The Dual Enrollment Program takes a different approach to offer students college credit. Students that participate in the Dual Enrollment Program physically apply to a nearby college of their choice similarly to if they were a full-time college student. The catch is, Universities must accept the students to the college just like any other student attending the college. They must operate at the same collegiate level as all the other college students while they are still in high school. Students apply through an application process through GA Futures, as well as apply through the current high school. Universities that accept these students will be able to attend that college under the Dual Enrollment program.

There is a lot of information to consider when making the decision between Dual Enrollment and AP Courses because there are a lot of “moving parts” that can complicate this process. There are different benefits that both programs offer. Depending on the circumstances and the student, one program may be more or less beneficial for the student. 

One of the main factors that contribute to this ongoing debate on the College Board and the Dual Enrollment program is the cost of the two programs.  Students take AP Exams at the end of the course are roughly $90-110 dollars per exam. In contrast, the Dual Enrollment program is absolutely free to the student. Public School Review states, “In many cases, there is no tuition charge for high school students participating in the dual-enrollment program.”

This program is cost-efficient for an above-average student; however, there is significant paperwork required and thorough planning for the student. 

While both courses provide rigor and challenge students nationwide, the two courses go upon different ways of presenting the information. AP Courses tend to have more classwork and note-taking during class, while Dual Enrollment courses are more lecture-based during class time.

“The classroom environment differs because there is so much work in AP Classes and much of the class time is taken up with consistent notes and handouts. Dual Enrollment classes are more lecture-based. There are due dates for the assignments, but there is no busy work in between; it’s well planned,” says junior Mckenna Willy, who is currently taking both Dual Enrollment and AP Courses. 

The classroom environments can be very different depending on the course. Jordan Edwards, a junior at South, comments on the AP Class environment. “I like the convenience of the classes being at South and having friends in AP classes,” Edwards says. “However, they’re very pressuring and fast-paced.”

There are many circumstances to consider when deciding whether the AP or the Dual Enrollment path is right depending on individual student needs. 

“Personally, I would suggest dual enrollment because it offers the same credits as AP without being so stressful. I feel like AP classes are a lot harder than they need to be whereas college classes through Dual Enrollment feel very manageable,” states Willy. “While the choice can be very different and confusing, it is most important to choose the route that will be more successful given personal circumstances.”