Dual enrollment can be a great way for your homeschooled high schooler to finish high school and start college - at the same time! If you are considering this option, read on to weigh the pros and cons of dual enrollment.
What Is Dual Enrollment?
Dual enrollment allows a student to enroll for college classes, and upon successful completion, the student receives a grade and credit that is applied to his high school transcript as well as college credit that can be used toward a post-secondary degree such as an associate or bachelor's. Dual enrollment is offered most commonly through community colleges, but it can also be found at some private colleges and universities as well as online academic programs and providers.
Dual enrollment is common amongst public and private traditional high schools as well. In fact, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, there were approximately two million dual credit enrollments in 2010-2011. The results are the same, but the homeschool dual enrollment programs are often structured differently than those in traditional high schools. For example, in traditional school settings, the courses are actually taught on-site at the high school - sometimes by college professors and sometimes by eligible high school faculty. However, homeschool students who wish to dual enroll take their courses on the college campus along side other traditional college students.
Dual enrollment admission requirements vary by state and institution, but typically students must be 16 years old and may be required to submit test scores or sit for tests to determine placement. Most homeschool students who choose to dual enroll take a couple of courses each semester in 11th and 12th grade.
There are obvious benefits to dual enrollment as a homeschool high school student. Many of our homeschool friends used dual enrollment for lab sciences - that's one way to avoid dissecting frogs at the kitchen table! Both of our high schoolers took community college courses. Dual enrollment enabled them to develop writing skills while knocking out those Freshman Comp requirements, be exposed to foreign languages while completing foreign language requirements at their respective universities, and helped them realize they could not only survive college-level work, but they actually excelled at it. Dual enrollment helped them validate their homeschool educational experience on a personal level. It built their confidence and allowed us to work out some of the kinks associated with college-level learning while they were still at home.
Financially, dual enrollment is often a win-win. Completing high school while getting a jumpstart on accumulating college credits is a definite advantage. Some private colleges and universities offer reduced tuition rates to homeschool students, allowing them to take a couple of classes a semester. While not free, community college tuition is usually much more affordable than that of four-year schools, so any work completed at the community college level will free up more expensive tuition dollars for higher level, specialized classes.
Also as mentioned, dual enrollment is not just for homeschoolers. Millions of high school students participate in dual enrollment programs through public and private high schools each year. Providing this resource to your homeschooler will not only help prepare them for college-level work, it will also help make them competitive when applying to the college of their choice. The college work can also make ACT and SAT tests more manageable and result in stronger admissions essays.
Also keep in mind that vocation classes can also be taken as dual enrollment. Not all careers require a four year degree. If your student is interested in technical or vocational training, dual enrollment can give them a jumpstart on that as well. Classes like computer programming, medical technology, and a variety of trade classes are often available through community colleges. In most cases, the credit will count towards high school as well as any certificate or associate degree program they might choose to complete.
While dual enrollment has many benefits for the homeschool family, it is not without its challenges. Community college can be a challenging atmosphere for your high school homeschooler. Classes are often diverse, and your child may or may not have the maturity to handle interaction with an older group of students. Choosing an online program or perhaps a private university might provide an environment more comfortable for less mature teens.
The college class workload can be overwhelming at the beginning, so be prepared. Many homeschool families planning to dual enroll use 9th and 10th grade to prepare for the added demands of college classes. Often, course material in lower-level college classes is not significantly more difficult, but often the material is covered more quickly. Developing strong study skills and good time management can make the transition easier.
Ultimately, there is still significant cost involved. Also, transferring credits is not always a guaranteed process. Make sure to do your homework before choosing a school and classes. Some community colleges have transfer agreements with four-year institutions. Credits never transfer automatically, so make sure you understand the process before beginning the work. Some students who dual enroll at a private college or university go on to complete their four-year degrees at that school.
Dual enrollment can really jumpstart your homeschool student's college career. Not only can it provide a nice stash of college credits, it can build confidence and study skills at the same time. Weigh the pros and cons, and decide if dual enrollment is the right choice for your homeschool high schoolers.