Parents feel increasing pressure to get college started early, so here is: dual enrollment for homeschoolers- what to know.
Dual Enrollment for Homeschoolers- What to Know
So many homeschool high schoolers now take the opportunity for dual enrollment courses. In fact, it is so common to dual enroll that parents can feel pressure to have their teens take college courses during high school whether they want to or not.
We 7Sisters have graduated lots of teens (those of our own and the hundreds we have advised). Many of these teens have taken dual enrollment courses and found them to be useful. Just as many have stuck with their high school and/or career-preparation courses. That’s because (as you know) there’s not ONE right way to homeschool high school.
Therefore, we want to talk about dual enrollment in a pressure-free way to help you decide:
- What is dual enrollment?
- Whether or not to dual enroll your homeschool high schoolers
- If so, when should they dual enroll?
- And, if so, which courses should they take?
- If they take dual-enrollment course, what are some important academic success tips?
- What are other options for college credit during high school
What is dual enrollment?
Dual enrollment refers to college courses that high schoolers can participate in. Students usually earn college credit that can also count as high school credit on their transcript.
How do these credits work?
Students who complete a college course with a passing grade earn college credit. Usually, semester-length college courses earn three, four or five semester credits for a college transcript.
However, keep in mind that college credits are different from high school credits. Most states use Carnegie credits for high school transcript. Carnegie credits equal one-half credit for a semester course. Therefore, a one-semester college course would give three, four or five credits for a COLLEGE course but, in most cases, only half credit on their high school transcript.
However, a college course on a high school transcript packs power. It would be as impressive (or more so) as Level 5 high school courses or AP courses.
Whether or not to have your students take dual enrollment courses
There are lots of good reasons to take dual enrollment courses. AND there are lots of reasons to NOT take dual enrollment courses. Remember: there’s not ONE right way to homeschool high school.
Here are some reasons for taking dual enrollment courses:
Providing challenge and change-of-scenery for teens who need a stretch
Academically-driven teens often feel more excitement about their courses if at least some of them are college-level. This presents them challenge and also helps them feel like they are moving forward with their lives in a useful way.
Saving a little on the cost of college
The amount of savings varies widely:
- Many colleges make offer discounts on selected courses, especially general education courses like Freshman Composition
- Some states offer discounts for high school juniors or seniors on any courses at community colleges and universities.
- A number of private and Christian colleges that have online programs will offer a few special-interest freebie courses, hoping that teens will love the courses. They hope that the classes will inspire students to remember the college when they start their college search to attend after graduation.
- They may also give discounts to high schoolers who enroll in other online college courses.
- NOTE: Check with your teens’ colleges of interest. Ask them:
- Which courses are eligible for transfer to their college?
- Not all courses will transfer to all colleges. Some colleges will want course descriptions on all transfer classes unless they have a prior arrangement with the college where the dual enrollment courses were taken.
- Some colleges have a limit on the number of transfer credits. Ask the college of interest about this.
- Occasionally, a college has accepted lots of transfer credits from our dual enrolled students but said that there were so many transfer credits that the teen was not eligible for freshmen-level tuition grants. So be sure to check with colleges of interest about this, also.
- Which courses are eligible for transfer to their college?
Someone else gets to teach the things you don’t want to teach
How do you teach the things your do not know? Of course, homeschool co-ops and umbrella schools are good choices. However, when teens are ready for college-level work, learning from a college teacher can be great education.
Also, if your teen has a special interest that you cannot help them develop, a college course can be perfect. For instance, my daughter was interested in photography as a career. She started taking photography and art courses at the community college during her junior year of high school because I definitely could not teach her these things. She earned a certificate in digital production and created a magnificent portfolio which earned her some scholarship money in college.
On the other hand, dual enrollment is not always the best choice for high schoolers
Remember, there’s not ONE right way to homeschool high school and it is definitely not wrong to decide not to participate in dual enrollment. For instance, of my five children, two did some dual enrollment courses in their interest areas. The others did not feel the interest or need. (This choice did not hinder them at all. Two of them now have doctoral degrees and one is currently working on his masters.)
Some teens would rather enjoy being in high school while they are in high school
Sometimes teens who have several college courses going at once, loose time and energy for their other high school classes and their extracurriculars, not to mention time to relax or spend time with friends. In other words, college-to-early can make some teens more prone to burnout. Listen to your teens. Know their personalities and rhythms. For instance, my teens who did not do dual enrollment wanted to get the most out of being a teen- they were not rushing to get to college.
Some teens are not ready for a college environment
They may not be interested yet, have not learned time management yet or need to learn class-participation skills first. Maybe they need to bulk up in some basic writing or math skills before they jump into a college course. My advice is: whatever you decide, make sure you have your teen’s buy-in so they will have the energy to rise to the college occasion!
Other teens do not need college course for their goals
If you have teens who are not college-bound, it may not be the best use of time to take dual enrollment academic courses. Instead, it would probably be a better choice to find apprenticeship opportunities. (On the other hand, if your local community college has vocational or trade courses, your teens might be interested in getting a jump on career training.)
When should teens take dual enrollment classes?
There is not a simple answer to this because each college and state has different rules.
Most of the time, though some courses may be open to:
High school juniors and seniors (some colleges do not have age restrictions).
When they are ready and willing to take on the rigor of a college course
Make sure your teens want to take this on, so no one wastes time and money. (We discuss success tips/skills later in this post.)
When they have clarified an interest or major
If they have chosen a major, they will know which courses or general education classes will be best for them. Or if they have a special interest (such as my daughter’s photography), they can begin work on a certificate or other specialized training.
Which dual-enrollment courses should they take?
Again, there are lots of answers to this question. The most obvious are:
General education courses
Most colleges have some general education courses that all students must take, regardless of major. These are often courses like:
- Freshman Composition
- Some kind of Literature
- Several History or Social Science courses
- Often some Science course(s)
- Some colleges require a World Language course or two
Remember to check with colleges of interest to see what courses will actually transfer.
Courses that develop an interest or get your teen started on their major
Look for certificate programs at the community college to develop interests.
For starting on their major, check the college of interest’s basic courses in that major. However, be sure to check with that college to see if dual-enrollment courses will be accepted. Some colleges want all their major courses taken at that college.
If they take dual-enrollment course, what are some important academic success tips?
Please do not skip this part. Teens who are taking college courses need some basic skills for success. Here are a few:
- How to use a syllabus
- Time management
- Scheduling backwards
- Writing skills- especially research and essays
- Class participation skills
- Advocating for oneself skills
- Check out these Homeschool Highschool Podcast episodes for more skills:
Homeschooling is awesome. We parents and teens can work together to make the best educational choices for our teens’ needs.