AP or Dual Enrollment?

Should my homeschooler take an AP course, or opt for dual enrollment? What is the better option?

In recent years, it has become very popular among homeschooling parents to use the dual enrollment option for their high-school age learners. Some states even offer free enrollment at local community/junior colleges for high-school (and younger) participants. The obvious benefit is that taking (and passing) a dual enrollment course gives the student credit that can be counted towards their college degree. Earning credits via dual enrollment may also result in less time needed to graduate (with the added potential benefit of lower tuition costs!) Sounds simple enough, right?

Well, not exactly. Like everything else in life – the answer is a bit more complicated. There are specific issues with dual enrollment that parents need to consider:

Limited Course Selection: Dual enrollment programs typically offer a limited range of courses compared to AP programs. AP courses cover a wide variety of subjects, allowing students to explore diverse academic interests. In contrast, dual enrollment may have fewer course options available, limiting students’ choices.

Variation in Credit Transfer: The transferability of dual enrollment credits to college can vary significantly depending on the institution. Some colleges may not accept certain dual enrollment credits, while others may only accept them as elective credits rather than fulfilling core requirements. This lack of consistency can create uncertainty for students and potentially result in wasted effort.

College-level Rigor: While dual enrollment courses provide college credit, they may not always match the rigor and depth of an actual college course. AP courses are designed to emulate the content and expectations of college-level courses more closely, providing students with a more rigorous academic experience that may better prepare them for future challenges.

Taking an AP course isn’t just about “checking the box” in order to earn college credit; it’s also about learning the skills and strategies one will need in order to succeed both academically and professionally. Time management, detailed analysis, problem-solving, and creative interpretation are just a few examples that come to mind.

Also, keep in mind that AP does stand for “advanced placement” – in other words, earning a score of 4 (or 5) demonstrates that the student has mastered the subject to a point where they do not have to bother with taking introductory coursework, and can proceed with advanced college courses upon enrollment, allowing them to take on internships or earn a double major. Some colleges will even offer extra college credits for students who earn 4 or 5 on their AP exams.

You can find out more about this on the College Board’s website, under “Getting Credit and Placement”: https://apstudents.collegeboard.org/getting-credit-placement

Open Tent Academy is now a Level 1 approved organization with College Board/AP, which means that we can help our families with applying for SSD accommodations online and SAT Fee waivers. We also can offer AP courses, and view our learners’ scores for AP, PSAT and SAT suite of assessments. For more information, visit our College Board / AP page.

Jonathan Meola is Co-Founder and Director at Open Tent Academy. He also is an instructor teaching AP history courses for homeschoolers (Modern World, US, and European): https://www.opententacademy.com/ap-and-honors-courses/

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