Over the past several years, I’ve been part of a lot of conversations about dual enrollment. Once junior high or high school hits, it tends to be a large part of what we research, stress over, and schedule out.
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From the conversations I’ve been a part of, both in person and on social media, the motivation for this tends to range among the following:
- I want my child’s transcript to stand out, so I’ll pack in the dual enrollment classes.
- I really don’t want to teach ________ in high school, is it offered through dual enrollment?
- My child can get several of their gen ed credits completed through dual enrollment, what’s the cheapest way to do that?
All of these are completely valid points, and a couple of them were on my radar when my son and I started looking into dual enrollment. However, I think there’s one area where we often miss the boat.
Padding the Transcript
Having AP and dual enrollment classes on your child’s transcript will set them apart, and they are good options to consider. Choosing to enroll your child in dual enrollment solely to set their transcript apart can backfire, though, and here’s why.
When you choose classes primarily to boost a transcript, it’s easy to miss other considerations.
- Is the content of the course actually going to be beneficial for your child?
- Is the level of rigor right for your child? Will it be too easy or too difficult?
- Will the instructor likely be a good influence on your child?
These are all things that are important to consider…and each one of them can have more impact on your child’s future than the transcript will.
Choosing Classes You Don’t Want to Teach
There are classes that are intimidating for each of us, and the thought of handing them off to college instructors can be pretty tempting.
If your child excels at something you don’t and would benefit from taking the class as dual enrollment, go for it! Doing so can really open up some great insights and opportunities.
If, like you, your child is not strong in these subjects though, jumping straight into college-level courses with instructors who don’t know them can set them up for failure. In this case, there are other options available, including co ops, tutors, and online or DVD-based classes.
Getting Gen Ed Credits Out of the Way
Now, this one isn’t a bad idea. Often, our kids are ready to take Comp 101 or American History during high school, and dual enrollment often allows them to do so at a reduced rate. My son took some of his gen ed credits through dual enrollment and was happy he could do so.
However, don’t restrict your child to these classes. Give them the chance to explore a bit, to take classes that they otherwise might not – especially at full price. These classes may end up changing their lives.
My son, for example, had decided at a very young age that he was going to be a scientist. He never could nail down a specialty that he was interested in, as parts of several specialties really appealed to him.
He found out very quickly in his college classes why this was.
My son couldn’t stand the technical, detailed side of “doing” science. He hated his lab classes, since everything he was studying had already been discovered.
He could look that stuff up for free…why spend class time on it?
Eventually, he found that he absolutely loves the philosophy of science, though – the “why” behind how scientists come to the conclusions they do. Digging into this a bit, he found that he loves other areas of philosophy as well, especially those that deal with political, socioeconomic, and theological matters.
So he changed his majors. He also changed the internships that he’s looking into and opened himself to opportunities in missions. And he’s never been happier. He knows his purpose, and he’s moving toward it.
Planning for Dual Enrollment
The above reasons aren’t bad things to consider. Through watching my son and his friends tackle their dual enrollment classes, though, I found out that they also shouldn’t be the primary reasons behind dual enrollment.
The primary reason behind dual enrollment classes should be the same as that of any other class: to prepare our children. To let them discover what it is they’re really interested in doing. To let them challenge themselves at a deeper level, to learn to navigate a new set of expectations.
This will look different for every student, and it should. There really is no “formula” for navigating college options, just like there is no one “right” way to homeschool your child. Here are some options to look into, though, and discuss with your student.
Many colleges and universities are now offering online classes; while these were once seen as “the easy way out,” some online programs are truly outstanding.
Many are designed for very flexible scheduling and the online structure can allow your student to be seen for their ideas and abilities, rather than their age.
This is the route that my son chose; being gifted, he started college classes at an early age. He was academically ready for the classes, but he was not ready to move to another state or live in the dorms.
He also didn’t want to be seen as a “kid” – he wanted to participate just like any other student. Online classes allowed him to do that.
There are companies that will help you navigate this route, such as College Plus/Unbound. Not only will they help you figure out which classes will be best for your student, they will also help your child get ready for the challenges of college classes.
One thing to be aware of: not all online programs are created equal. Some universities have really invested in their online programs and run them well, while others have a lot of bugs to work out.
Ask around and find out what the programs are really like before you invest your child’s time and your tuition funds. My son tried a few and chose Liberty University Online, and he has happily been pursuing his degrees there for the past four years.
Trade or Tech School
Many areas have trade or tech programs that can train your child for anything from broadcast journalism to carpentry to EMT. If your child is interested in a career track that is available through these programs, this option can be amazing.
In some areas, these programs are even free to high school students. You really can’t get better than that!
This option can allow your student to get real-life training in something they enjoy, for free or reduced cost, before they graduate high school. This means that they can enter the job market with skills that can earn a good paycheck right out of the gate.
They have the option of establishing themselves early, of gaining financial independence before they have responsibilities like marriage and kids. And most likely, they can do so without incurring debt.
This option isn’t for everyone, but it is a good one to consider!
Whether these classes are taken at a community college or a local university, they are a good option for some students. If your student is ready to dip into college life without having to jump in with both feet, this can be an excellent way to try things out.
And because dual enrollment classes are often less expensive than those same classes after graduation, your student may be able to try out intro classes in different fields. This can allow them to build relationships with future mentors and figure out what they really do want to invest their time and effort in.
As with online options, though, schools vary in their dual enrollment programs. Do your research to find out what your child is really getting into before making your choice.
Consider Your Options
Whatever option you and your student decide on, be encouraged that this does not have to be intimidating. Instead, it can be an amazing experience! It all comes down to how you approach it.