Prep Talk Blog > September 2009

Previously, we talked about the growing numbers of high school students taking part in dual enrollment programs that allow them to earn college credit before they ever receive a fat envelope. Before you sign up, here are some of the disadvantages to keep in mind:

It might cost money. Many dual enrollment programs try to save their students money by offering free or reduced tuition classes. However, if yours doesn't, you'll have to pay for tuition, as well as textbooks and coursepacks. On the other hand, dual enrollment gives you the chance to finish basic requirements before entering your freshman year of college. Classes at a community college, even if you pay for them, may be cheaper than the ones at a four-year university, so you might wind up saving money. You have to make sure, however, that your future college will allow you to transfer the credits.

It takes time. College classes come with more course material and more reading than what you may be used to. In addition to the time you'll spend on the more difficult coursework, you should also factor in commuting to class if your high school doesn't offer college classes on campus.  Most students dual enroll during their junior or senior years, the same time when they're studying for standardized tests and applying for colleges. These responsibilities will already demand much of your attention. Also keep in mind that senior year will be a period when you'll want to spend time with friends and family. Overcommitting yourself might not be the best idea.

It may be too difficult. Because college coursework is more rigorous, you should be sure that you're prepared to be challenged. Even if an instructor is teaching a college class on a high school campus, he or she is usually required to have an advanced degree on the subject or may be a professor hired for the job. For those taking classes on a college campus, remember that you won't be treated like a high school student in the lecture hall, so you'll have to perform above and beyond usual expectations to compete with your fellow classmates. If you're intimidated, try out summer classes at your local community college instead of academic-year classes at a big university. Remember, grades in these classes carry over to your college transcript (if you want the credits to count), so they'll will be with you for the rest of your undergraduate education.

On the other hand, dual enrollment is often a blessing for students who feel stifled by unchallenging coursework. Check back tomorrow for some of the advantages to getting a head start on college.

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