AP Courses or Dual Enrollment?

Which do I take? Well, both…


By: Belinda Gonzalez-Leon, Ed. D., MBA

Premier Educational Consulting, LLC

Ph: (305) 494-9389



DORAL, FL –  High school freshman are trying to decide: Load up on Advanced Placement (AP) courses over the next three years or enroll in a Dual Enrollment program? Both of these types of courses are considered college-level curriculum that will boost your grade point average (GPA) and possibly earn you college credits while still in high school at little to no cost. So, which do you choose? The best option is a combination that best fits the specific student. However, in many cases, AP courses are better received Dual Enrollment courses.

The College Board is a not-for-profit organization that helps “students prepare for a successful transition to college through programs and services in college readiness and college success — including the SAT and the Advanced Placement Program” (https://about.collegeboard.org/overview). During a recent AP training, the College Board explained that the advantage AP has over Dual Enrollment is the standardization.

Regardless of which AP course you take or where you take it or when you take it, there is a set curriculum that the instructor must follow for students to pass the national exam. Every May students take a national exam for each and every AP course they have completed throughout the school year.  Per course, all students take the same exam and can score between 1 and 5 with colleges typically favoring scores above 3.

Through a Dual Enrollment program, high school students can enroll in a college course. Here in Miami, most high schools that offer dual enrollment do so through Miami Dade College or Florida International University. Some Catholic high schools offer dual enrollment through St. Thomas University. Both the high school and the college have flexibility in how to offer the program.

Courses might be taught at the high school campus or at the college campus; courses may be taught by the college instructors or the high school instructors, and there are even some options for online courses. The dual enrollment instructor has the freedom to teach course objectives as set by the college and then administer his own final exam for a grade. There is no national standard in regards to dual enrollment courses as they are managed at a local level.  

Because AP courses are measured nationally by the same standards, colleges are able to evaluate the value of the course and the grade in a much easier fashion. Colleges and universities recognize the rigor involved in taking these courses while still a high school student. This does not mean that the student will automatically earn college credit. Earning credit for an AP course depends on several factors. The College Board’s website helps with a search engine that will find a school’s policy on accepting AP credits at a particular college.

This should not deter you from enrolling in AP courses. Even if you are not granted college credit, the fact that you chose to enroll in a college-level course while still in high school tells schools that you are a student willing to put in the work to learn and do well at college. Take the AP course!

Dual Enrollment courses will earn you college credit at the college offering you the course. You must inquire as to the college credits transfer policy to understand the criteria and restrictions in using those college credits at other schools. This information can be found by searching the college’s website or contacting the college’s Registrar’s Office. In fact, you should be asking these questions BEFORE you register for the dual enrollment course. Taking dual enrollment courses at Miami Dade College or FIU and then enrolling there provides you a very high probability that they will be accepted and applied towards your degree at that same school.

If you attend a Florida college, particularly one of the state universities, there is a great probability your credits will be accepted because of articulation agreements. Your high school will have a very specific agreement with the college offering dual enrollment courses that will stipulate how your credit will transfer to that college (or possibly others) if you so choose to attend.

The challenge lies in the fact that dual enrollment programs are not standardized like an AP courses. Advanced Placement is a regulated program with one national exam that proves across the line what the student has mastered in the subject. Dual Enrollment courses can be taught by either a college or non-college instructors; each college has varying academic caliber; are taught under differing conditions dictated by the high school and college, and instructors offers a different final exam with different ways of earning a final grade.

Therefore, when a college is deciding whether to accept a dual enrollment course, it is difficult to determine if the coursework meets their standards. The accreditation of the colleges involved is a whole other topic!

There is also the possibility that students could take enough dual enrollment courses to be able to graduate from high school with an Associate Degree. If you can transfer an Associate Degree to your college, then you have approximately only two years left to earn your Bachelor’s Degree. This type of Dual Enrollment program would allow you to complete two years of college work while in high school. Earning your Associate while still in high school is not easy.

It is a heavy course load and you may need to take courses at night or over the summer. It is not for every student, but it can be done. This is similar to the model used by Miami Dade College’s School of Advanced Studies (SAS) High School.

So what’s a student to do? Take the AP courses. Pick up some dual enrollment courses. Find a balance so that you can fit both into your schedule and still have time to do extra-curricular activities and get enough sleep. If you are a strong student and willing to sacrifice for the Associate, then go for it! Make sure it’s an Associates of Arts.

AP and Dual Enrollment courses give students the opportunity to discover the difficulty of college-level work; be challenged in their education; earn college credit; and show colleges the stuff they are made of. However, every student is different and it’s an individual choice as to how much of these advanced courses a student should attempt.

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