AP Credit vs. Dual Credit

There's plenty of options for you to gain high school knowledge alongside college credit, with AP and dual credit being amongst the top few. Both have amazing benefits, and it's simply about choosing what is the best fit for you! Remember, colleges can see you are hardworking and resilient through both AP and DC courses. Depending on your high school and state programs, you may even be able to take a combination of the two.

This document aims to help you recognize some pros and cons to both course choices, hopefully aiding you in your decisions for high school coursework. Of course, make sure to communicate with your counselor on what is best suited to your individual needs!

🤜 Advanced Placement (AP) Courses

The Advanced Placement (AP) program is offered through an organization known as the College Board). AP classes are higher-level courses provided to high school students, offering a chance to earn college credit. These classes typically occur year-long, and in the spring, you have the option to take an AP exam. However, you must sign up for this exam within the fall. AP exams are graded on a scale of 1-5, covering all information learned in the academic year. Based on your score and what college you plan to attend, you may earn academic credit or "test out" of a college-level class. This helps save a lot of time and money in the future.

Your grade in the AP class will affect high school GPA, just like any other class. However, the AP exam score is only used to determine your eligibility for college credit.

To see if your high school offers approved AP courses, check the College Board's AP Course Ledger.

Tip! It's also possible to take an AP exam without taking the class. If you are home-schooled or if your school doesn't offer a particular AP class, you can still take an exam for the chance to gain college credit.

🤛 Dual Credit (DC) Courses

There are different forms of dual-credit classes, and the availability will vary based on your state and school. We highly recommend getting in touch with your high school counselor to confirm what options you have.

Dual enrollment classes are taught at your high school, normally in a way that is similar to your other classes. You will be in an environment with students your age and teachers from the school but have an advanced curriculum.

Concurrent enrollment courses give you the chance to enroll in college (typically community) during high school, and simultaneously be earning credit. This is a great opportunity to gain experience in a real college environment and to learn how to work with college professors and exam policies.

Remember, your grades from ALL dual credit courses you take will transfer to your high school AND college transcript(s). Dual credit courses are an amazing option to gain specific college credits that you can later transfer to a four-year school after graduating. Some students even take this time to earn an associates degree, which can help them save time and money in the future.

Both AP and DC courses boost your weighted GPA, and are beneficial ways to acquire higher-level knowledge, get a chance to gain college credit, and work through a more rigorous curriculum.

📚 Academics

You will absolutely be facing more rigorous content and curriculum than normal high school classes in both AP and DC courses. School performance is an essential factor when applying to college but clubs, activities, and extracurriculars play an equally important role. More rigorous classes can interfere with extracurricular activities, so make sure to keep a balanced schedule regardless of what option you choose.

Both options can help you work towards generic pre-requisites for college majors. Consider what types of classes you want to take when choosing between the two. There are only 38 AP course options, listed here.

You may be wondering, are AP tests difficult to gain credit from? The answer isn't an easy yes or no. You need to consider different aspects, including your own academic strengths, your school, and score statistics.

Determining the "difficulty" of an AP subject

There are two factors to consider when deciding how hard an AP subject is: the difficulty of the AP exam itself, and how the AP class is taught at your high school. We recommend talking to current students and asking about their experiences in the class.

In general, all AP classes are challenging and rigorous, since they're meant to be at the same level of an introductory college class. However, the difficulty of an AP class will depend on your school and their grading policy. AP class difficulty also varies a lot from teacher to teacher. Some teachers won't assign a lot of work but will expect you to study on your own. Others will keep you busy with nightly assignments, practice tests, and projects.

Note: As a student, you should be aware of your strengths and limitations. Do you do better directing your own studying, or is it helpful for you to have daily assignments to force you to stay on top of things? Do you have background knowledge in the subject area? Being able to answer these questions will help you choose AP classes that play to your strengths, and also help you get good grades and pass the exam.

The exams are pretty similar year to year. Some are harder than others, though your experience will depend on your personal strengths. You can take a look at the content on practice exams when considering if you would like to take the test. There are also plenty of resources online, such as Fiveable's thousands of AP resources, so don't let yourself be limited by a lack of background knowledge!

Tip! If your school has a high pass rate for an AP course, it's a good sign that the teacher has a strong AP-prep curriculum in place.

Typically DC provides you with more specific class options, especially ones that provide career or technical education coursework. You can take a variety of classes that may not be offered at your high school such as marketing, multivariable calculus, and nutrition. Students may also be able to work towards an associate's (2-year) degree or certification.

Similar to AP classes, your experience with dual credit courses will vary based on your personal working style, as well as the type of course you are taking. Remember, the grades you receive are included in your high school and college transcripts.

Dual Enrollment

Dual enrollment classes depend on your class policies, as most of the time these are taught by high school teachers. Keep in mind, although these may be similar to a high school class, you are still taking a college-level course, which means more time spent on schoolwork. While they are directed to follow a curriculum, teachers have freedom on grading policies and will take different approaches to how much work they may assign or the difficulty of tests.

Concurrent Enrollment

Since you will be taking college classes within a college environment, it can be hard to adjust. You will have to adapt to work with college professors and classmates, which can be a huge change from high school. This is a great introduction to future college course pace of work and a very beneficial learning experience.

Remember that college credit is not guaranteed with either of these options. To receive AP credit, you must pass the exam, whilst for DC you need a C or above. Consider your working style here as well. Do you prefer to study for one big exam or work towards a cumulative grade for the class?

⏲ Time

One yearlong AP class is the equivalent of one semester or one quarter college class. You may be able to gain a lot more credit in a shorter amount of time through DC.

Additionally, consider the amount of time put into studying and working on the class itself. AP classes are generally rigorous, and you have to manage to keep your grade high as well as study and score well on the exam. On the other hand, in DC courses you are simply working towards a grade for credit.

Lastly, think about transportation. If you are taking concurrent enrollment classes, you may need to commute to a local college campus. Some high schools may offer transportation, but regardless, transportation time is a factor to think about.

💸 Cost


  • AP classes are free, as they are simply high school classes you would choose to take. However, it costs $94 to take an exam.
  • Low-income students may have the option to reduce or waive their fee through federal funds or the College Board. Again, stay in touch with your school counselor, they will guide you through this process!


  • Dual Credit tuition cost depends on where you live and what program you are in. Typically, as part of a dual-credit program, classes are between $0 to $400, which is significantly less than the cost of a traditional college class.
  • Oftentimes, dual credit costs may be covered by the state, the student’s high school district, or the student or their parent, or some combination of these.

✨ Credit Transfer

How do credits transfer? AP courses and dual-credit have their differences, but the college you plan on going to affects this as well. We'll help you with some general tips, and make sure to do your own research too!


  • You may receive an AP exam score ranging from 1-5, with 5 being the equivalent of A-level college course. Many colleges accept scores from 3 and up, while more selective schools only consider 4 and 5 scores as acceptable for credit or placement. You can also choose to not send in scores to a college.
  • Your grade in the AP class will not affect your ability to receive credit, it cannot aid nor hurt you in this process. Only your AP exam score will determine your credit eligibility.
  • Tip! Keep in mind that colleges are interested in more than just test scores! Don't let AP courses and exams stop you from participating in other activities you enjoy, or from taking a non-AP class that really interests you. Don't overload your schedule with AP classes, and make sure to take care of your mental and physical wellbeing ❤️
  • AP is a well-known program, and almost all colleges within the United States grant credit or placement through AP test scores. You may be able to skip a class entirely, receive elective credit, or use an AP score for placement purposes. You can use the College Board's Credit Policy Search Engine to determine what credit may transfer at the colleges you're looking at.


  • These classes count for both high school and college credit. You must pass a dual enrollment class with a C or above to earn credit. Remember, the grade you earn will be part of your high school AND college academic record.
  • Some classes require you to take an exam at the end of the course to get the subsequent credit. Others require you to complete paperwork at the beginning or end of the term to get credit. Make sure to check with your specific program or school for details.
  • Not all colleges accept dual enrollment credits. An in-state public college is more likely to accept dual credit than out-of-state public colleges or private colleges. Consider your post-grad plans, and meet with a counselor to see if the dual-credit option best suits you.
  • If you are certain about attending an in-state college, dual-credit is an extremely good option since it would save loads of time when completing a bachelor's degree.

Remember, the college you will attend matters a lot here. For both AP and DC credit, some colleges only transfer credit based on the degree you are working towards or use it as an elective, while others may use it for placement purposes. Make sure to keep your options open!

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