Advanced Placement vs. Dual Enrollment

⏱️  3 min read

written by

Kaitlin Arnold

kaitlin arnold

August 5, 2020

If you're afraid that one kind of academic course looks better to college admissions officers than another, or perhaps unsure of what the differences between Advanced Placement and dual enrollment courses are, you're not alone!  

Many students believe that colleges prefer AP courses over dual enrollment courses or vice versa. However, this is generally false. Both kinds of courses provide students college-level rigor for a low cost. So while there isn't preferential treatment at the college admissions level, you should be sure to explore which options personally fit your needs best. 

Advanced Placement

Advanced Placement, or AP, courses are directed through the College Board and are taken at a local high school or online academy. AP courses are typically taught for one school year, with some exceptions. 

Credit is earned for these courses as long as students earn a qualifying score on the course’s AP exam in May. These tests are scored on a 1-5 scale with a score of 3 or higher indicating a passing score. On the downside, students that have testing anxiety may not fare well with their college credit depending on one exam at the end of the year. 

Each college is different when it comes to what AP exams they accept credit for and what scores they accept, so be sure to research the schools you are interested in and find their AP score credit equivalency chart. You also might find it helpful to directly contact a college’s admissions office to check if your scores would award you credit towards your major. 

Dual Enrollment

Dual enrollment, or DE, courses are taught at a local college and count for both high school and college credit. Since they are direct college classes, they provide the opportunity to experience real college classes in a college environment. Also, these courses only last for one semester. When compared to AP courses, this may be a positive thing, as you can take two dual enrollment courses in the time that it would take to complete one AP course. 

Dual enrollment (DE) credit is awarded as long as you pass the course. There are also many more course offerings at a college in comparison to AP course offerings. However, one downside of DE courses is that if you take specific classes, they may not transfer to your future university. For example, if you take an extremely specific psychology class, there may not be an equivalent course at your future college. On the upside, if you start early enough you can earn your AA before you graduate high school. 

Transferring DE credit can be tricky though. If you plan on staying in-state, dual enrollment might be better for you since it is easier to transfer DE credit within the same state that you took the classes. If you plan on moving out-of-state, then AP courses may better suit your needs. 

So Which Do You Pick?

One of the best things about education is that you can choose which courses fit you best. If you find yourself to have high testing anxiety or want to earn your AA, dual enrollment might be something to look into. If you are set on attending college out of state and want all of your credits to transfer, AP courses might be your best bet. If your school doesn't offer many APs, taking DE courses may be a better option. Regardless of your situation, you should test to see what works for you. 

Remember that every student is different, so be sure not to compare yourself to others or think that you have to follow someone else’s path. Do what is best for you!

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