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Sunday, February 9, 2014

College Crash Course Part 8: Dual Enrollment- Ready or Not?


When a high school student takes college courses while in high school, it’s called dual enrollment. Dual enrollment courses count for both high school and college credit.

Although colleges prefer AP courses, dual enrollment is often a better option for homeschoolers. Not only is community college more readily available, it shows colleges that your homeschooled child is capable of managing a college class.

Dual enrollment puts your child’s transcript through the rigor test that colleges use to evaluate the difficulty of high school work. It beefs up the high school transcript and lends credibility to your child’s homeschool GPA.

Dual enrollment also gives your child a head start on college graduation by giving him actual college credits. But keep in mind, he is also entering college with a college GPA.

Online Dual Enrollment

My daughter took all her dual enrollment courses online through Liberty University. She watched lectures on video, interacted with classmates on a forum, took timed tests, wrote papers, and filmed speeches that she uploaded. All four courses she took were accepted for credit at the University of Georgia. Because she made A’s in her dual enrollment courses at Liberty, she entered college with a 4.0.

Private online colleges are a more expensive option than community college courses. However, it worked better for my daughter to pursue the online option because she needed the flexibility that accommodated her ballet schedule. The environment at Liberty also nurtured and supported her Christian beliefs.

Community College Dual Enrollment

Taking courses at a local community college can be a good way to transition from homeschool to college. Your child will learn how to navigate college life—ordering books, handling registration, and utilizing professor hours and tutoring services—while living at home.

Your child might also have an opportunity to join groups and organizations in his area of interest. For example, one homeschooler joined the newspaper staff, enabling her to gain experience and polish her resume.

However there are some cautions to consider, and the most important one may surprise you:

If your child is strong in a particular area of interest, it is wise not to have him take that course for dual enrollment. Why? Because you want your child to enter his four-year college taking the freshmen level courses in his area of interest. Not only will the subject be taught differently at a four-year college, you want your child to stand out to professors in his area of interest. If your child completes entry-level courses at a junior college, he may end up as an 18 year old in a classroom with 20 year olds. Even if your child is strong in the subject, he will be at a disadvantage and his great aptitude will be overlooked. This would be a disservice to your child.

Think of it this way: If your child wants to be a biologist and takes Biology 101 at a junior college, then enters a four year college and takes Biology 201, he might not be adequately prepared. He will seem like a struggling student rather than the bright stellar student he really is.

It’s best to get those courses he doesn’t love out of the way by dual enrolling. That way, when he gets to college, he can focus on the courses he does love.

Here are some other cautions to consider when deciding whether or not to dual enroll:

If your child does not do well, it becomes part of his permanent college record and will affect his ability to get into a four-year college.

Most major universities are particular about which credits they accept from community colleges. The courses must match their course descriptions and be considered rigorous. Thus, your child’s credits may not transfer.

Some college professors have no qualms about discussing casual sex, drugs, and alcohol in a positive way.

Some college professors are adamantly against anything that resembles religion. Your student might have to exercise caution when expressing his opinion in both class and in writing assignments. One student was chastised by her professor because she had a Scripture in the tagline of her email.

Some fellow students may exhibit behavior and vocabulary that are offensive.

Ready or Not?

So is your child ready for dual enrollment? Spend some time in prayer, talk it over with your child, and decide the best course to take.

Most colleges require students to have taken the SAT or ACT to dual enroll. So if you intend to dual enroll in 11th grade, be sure to take the test well in advance.

Some states, like Georgia, will pay some of the expenses incurred when your student
dual enrolls.

Most community colleges and universities have their dual enrollment guidelines online. If you have any questions, call the admissions office. They’ll be happy to talk to you about their dual enrollment program.

Whether or not you dual enroll, remember, God has a great plan for your child’s future. If you do not feel led to begin college early, that’s because it isn’t the right course for your child.

Many, LORD my God, are the wonders you have done, the things you planned for us.  Psalm 40:5