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Dual Enrollment – Is It Worth the Rush?

Dual Enrollment - Is it worth the rush?

“Don’t be in such a hurry to grow up.”

This saying is one we have all heard before.  It is one that we used with our children when they were preschool and even kindergarten age; however, it seems when it comes to high school students earning college credits, we have forgotten what this saying implies.

If you surveyed the average high school junior or senior right now and asked them how many college credits they’ve earned already, you’d be hard pressed to find someone who answers “zero.” As a matter of fact, you’d probably be quite surprised to hear many students brag about having 12, 18, even 30 college credit hours already under their belt – all of which were earned while still in high school. 

Credits vs. Challenge

Yes, my daughter could have done the same.  Yes, she did take AP classes and the test that went along with them; however, it wasn’t to earn “college credits”.  For my daughter, it was to take the most challenging schedule. In fact, I refused to allow her to take any classes that would allow her to be “dually enrolled.”   

Yes, people looked at me funny.  

Yes, people questioned me.  

And frankly, I didn’t care.

And if asked, I tell parents, in my humble opinion, having your homeschooler dually enrolled is the worst choice you can make. Why? Here is my reasoning:

Too Much, Too Soon

Today, dual enrollment amongst homeschoolers are becoming so common that many students are literally graduating high school with an A.A. (Associate of Arts) degree- meaning they have two years of college completed before even being admitted to a four year university. But is this really a good thing?

Is it smart to bank college credit while in high school, or does it conversely limit their time living and enjoying the college experience, ultimately forcing 18-year-olds to instantly become college juniors, which has them declaring majors and making career decisions before they’re even ready?

Less Is Not More

Many dual enrollment classes were developed to not only give the student college credit hours, but also to satisfy a high school core credit. For example, a student needs four years of high school English to graduate, but as a senior, is allowed to dual enroll in a college freshman English class. This way, they’re both satisfying a high school English credit, and their college freshman English requirement. But how does having one less actual year of English benefit them? It doesn’t, because there is no way an instructor is able to cover what a senior high school English class should cover, and college freshman English- all in the same class, in the same year. Same goes for a dual enrollment math or science class. Yes, you’re getting some of those early general education classes out of the way so to speak, but you’re actually receiving less education because of it.  Less is not more.  Students will miss out on educational experiences that might have an impact on their lives.  Simply put, there are too many missed opportunities.

Limiting Access To Choices

Most dual enrollment classes offered to high school students on community college campuses are general education courses, which is a very limited catalog of options. This means some students will only take what is offered (not what is potentially available on a college campus, or what actually interests them) simply just to “get” the credit.  Access to a larger volume and variety of classes like those found at a four-year university is not there, thus students are prematurely boxed into a certain trajectory of study, all before they really have any idea of what they want to study. 

Major Decisions – Are They Truly Ready?

Another consideration to think about is when an 18-year-old student arrives on campus as a junior already based on their DE credit hours, this student is now forced to enter into their major field of study and begin coursework. There is very little chance that during high school they ever had any real, quality discussions with college advisors or career center professionals and counselors, so how are they supposed to be prepared at the tender age of 18 to make a possible lifetime decision?

Developmental Shortcuts – The Cost of “Missing Out”

And finally, one has to consider not just the outcomes of college (finishing with enough credit hours to receive a degree) but the process of college: all the social and emotional developmental milestones that occur during those four years on a campus, that cannot be partially or wholly replicated in a high school classroom or even a community college classroom. What are students really missing out on, and how does a shortened college experience shape their whole college experience?

Addressing Issues and Consequences

So, what are my recommendations? For parents of high school students, whom for whatever reason are trying to get a head start on college, these issues and consequences should be taken seriously, and discussed at length with both a high school guidance counselor, and if at all possible, an advisor from the four-year university that the student intends to gain admission to. The latter will help your student decide what, if any, dual enrollment and AP classes they should attempt to complete while in high school, and which offer no benefit in completing. 

Bottom line may very well be advice as simple as, “Don’t be in such a hurry to grow up.” Your homeschooled teen is a teen for a very short period of time.  Allow them the luxury of learning for the sake of learning vs. the sake of accumulating college credits.   

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