What’s On Your Transcript? AP vs. Dual Enrollment

What’s On Your Transcript? AP vs. Dual Enrollment

How to decide when working on your four-year plan.

Image for postPhoto by jarmoluk on Pixabay.

One major goal high school students have is to build an advanced course load in order to make themselves look more attractive to top universities they are reaching for acceptances from. In attempting to achieve this goal, students will have to choose between Advanced Placement Dual Enrollment courses.

According to a recent Facebook post, Principal Monical stated that there are ?many open seats in?advanced courses for next year,? which includes AP and dual enrollment courses. Now is the time to talk to your counselor if you are interested.

But Which One Should I Choose?

If you are one of those students and totally clueless on what to choose, let?s start with what those two courses mean and why we have both of them. Advanced Placement is a high school class that is created to emulate an equivalent college course. It has a more rigorous workload than an average high school class, and students take an exam at the end of the year to test their understanding of the material they learned. This exam determines whether the student receives college credit for the class or not, and the score required to actually receive this credit depends on the college, but must be at least a 3 or above (5 is the highest score possible). Dual Enrollment, on the other hand, is a specific college class taught at a high school by someone who is certified as a college professor.

The Differences

This teacher must be an expert in their field, and because of this students do not have to take an exam at the end of the course. There is an understanding that they must have learned what they needed to for that specific course since they learned it from a professor. Dual Enrollment is also a different course each semester, so it is faster-paced than AP; however, the learning isn?t tailored to the test, so there is more leeway for extra or different concepts. Both are accelerated courses, so they will be more rigorous than a normal high school class, and both are graded based on a five-point GPA scale, so they boost students? GPA.

What Students Say

Some students have taken both types of classes and have knowledge and opinions to share about the two:

Image for postPhoto by Zoe Beers.

Daniel Goddard:

?Having participated in both the Dual Enrollment and AP programs, I feel that the differences between the two mainly regard the approach to the subject matter and the credit received. For most Dual Enrollment classes, we dove right into the material, engaging in guided discussions and working more independently.

AP classes, while utilizing these practices, must additionally prepare students to take a cumulative exam. For some courses, such as mathematics, this causes little to no change to the curriculum. For others, such as English, it shifts classroom focuses to heavily-tested subjects and classroom practices to those mirroring the format of the AP exams. All in all, you are still learning the same material, so the deciding factor between the two is high school and college credit received. Each option will give you the same high school credit, while Dual Enrollment college credit is accepted at relatively fewer universities compared to AP college credit.?

Image for postPhoto courtesy Vianne Militar.

Vianne Militar:

?In my AP Chemistry and AP government classes, we learn the curriculum but also have a main focus in preparing for the AP exam, which determines if we get college credit or not. I also take Dual Enrollment Precalculus, and I like this class because it?s the college class itself, except we have better connections with our teacher and have better access in asking questions and receiving tutoring, which may be hard with professors in college.

While both offer high school credit, Dual Enrollment ensures college credit while AP college credit is based on your performance on the exam. For this reason, I favor Dual Enrollment because as long as you pass the course, you save a lot of time and money for college.?

Image for postPhoto courtesy Tommy Cruz.

Tommy Cruz:

? I think that AP classes are better than Dual Enrollment because they offer a more standardized curriculum, meaning that the grade values are more reputable than Dual Enrollment classes. This is due to the fact that it leads to a cumulative exam at the end of the course. Dual Enrollment classes have varying curricula and may be graded on an easier or tougher scale, while AP classes must meet a standard due to the cumulative exam at the end.

Colleges are more likely to accept credits received from AP testing rather than Dual Enrollment classes. The only exception is within public schools because community college credits must transfer to Cal State and UC universities, and private universities may not always accept these credits. Taking an AP exam and passing with a 3 or better (but usually a 4 or a 5) will ensure some type of credit, whether it be elective or actual coursework within the college.?

Overall, the main difference between the courses is the fact that AP classes require an AP exam, while Dual Enrollment classes just require a passing grade. This causes colleges to favor AP classes because they know exactly what you learned based on what you knew on the AP exam. On the other hand, colleges do not know what you learned in Dual Enrollment classes because there is no test or any way to tell. They also do not know how easy or hard it was for you to receive the grade to received, so some will want you to retake the course at their school to ensure you learned the correct material.

It?s All About Credit

If you are planning to go to a CSU or UC, however, Dual Enrollment credits are guaranteed to transfer because the credits you receive are through Copper Mountain College, and credits from community colleges must be accepted. Most of the AP/Dual Enrollment subjects offered at are school are not comparable to each other, since Dual Enrollment math is precalculus and its AP equivalents are calculus and statistics, so they aren?t comparable. In science, the Dual Enrollment class is Conservation of Natural Resources and its AP equivalents are physics, chemistry, and biology, so they aren?t comparable either.

The most comparable are English. You receive credit for the same introductory courses for both passing the AP exams and taking Dual Enrollment. The difference is, you take two years of AP to receive credits for both classes, whereas in Dual Enrollment you are actually taking these classes through CMC, so you take one each high school semester. This means with Dual Enrollment you finish your high school English credits your junior year, and you won?t have to take English at all senior year. The upside is that you are able to finish more quickly and open your schedule to more classes; the downside is you cannot go into nearly as much depth or learn as much as you can in AP over two years.

What Teachers Say

Some teachers also gave their input on the differences between these classes and the benefits of both:

The teachers were asked three different questions:

  1. How does the curriculum differ between AP and Dual Enrollment courses?
  2. How does the workload differ between the two courses?
  3. Which one do you think benefits students more, and which would you choose if you were a high school student?

Image for postPhoto by Zoe Beers.

Dr. Nicholson (Dual Enrollment English, English 11):

  1. ?Dual Enrollment classes guarantee college credit, while it is a possibility to receive college credit from an AP class because you must pass the exam with a 3 or better. AP credits are more nation-wide excepted, while Dual Enrollment is more locally accepted in states like California, Arizona, and Nevada. Dual Enrollment classes are taught by a UC-certified professor, meaning they have a master?s degree or higher in their area. This is five times the study of an average teacher. You are also using a real college textbook, so you are learning material more relevant to the specific college class you are receiving credit for. Since in English you receive college credit for classes it would take two years for, and high school credit for both 11th and 12th grade-English in one year, it opens up your senior year schedule for more classes.?
  2. ?Since both are advanced courses and represent that of a college course, they have a heavier workload than an average class. However, AP has a heavier workload because they are learning the class material while preparing for the AP exam at the same time.?
  3. ?I think Dual Enrollment classes benefit students more because it is guaranteed college credit and students are learning in a real college class with a professor and real textbooks. If I was a student, I would choose Dual Enrollment classes.?

Mr. Sanchez (AP Language, AP Literature, English 11):

  1. ?AP English courses use a school year to learn rhetorical or literary techniques as well as prepare for the AP exam, which will earn a student college credit if they receive a passing score. The Dual Enrollment English course squeezes two college semesters into a high school year to cover freshman composition and composition and literature, two introductory college courses. Students earn college credit automatically with a passing grade.?
  2. ?Both feature denser courses of study and increased reading and writing when compared to traditional high school English courses. Both options represent college curriculum taught in high school, so students should expect the workload of a first year college student.?
  3. ?There are great benefits for both. If I were a high school student trying to make myself as attractive as possible to an elite university, I would choose an AP course of study. If I were planning on starting my college career at a community college right after high school, I would choose the dual enrollment option. Both offer high school students a rare opportunity to save themselves time and money as they pursue higher education.?

Image for postPhoto courtesy Ms. Zacks.

Ms. Zacks (AP Biology, Biology, Honors Biology, Dual Enrollment Conservation of Natural Resources):

  1. ?Both courses are weighted and will give students a GPA boost. Obviously, to receive AP credit you must pass the exam, and in Dual Enrollment you don?t have to. Since when you take a Dual Enrollment class you are a taking an actual college class that is offered at a community college, the credit you receive is more specific, and you will be more likely to receive that credit for a specific class from colleges than AP credit. AP would more likely be accepted as elective credit, since it is not as specific to a college class. You are able to go more in-depth in AP because you aren?t trying to squeeze two years of learning into one.?
  2. ?My AP Biology class is more rigorous and time consuming than my Dual Enrollment Conservation of Natural Resources. In AP Biology, we do Bills (Biology Interactive Learning Logs), and must prepare for the exam as we learn, making it more rigorous.?
  3. ?I think that AP classes are more dependable for receiving some type of college credit at whatever college you choose to go to, while most Dual Enrollment classes are more general and career-oriented since they don?t require an exam. If I was in high school, I would try to take more Dual Enrollment classes because you will gain more general and useful knowledge.?

There are many things to consider when choosing between advanced courses, but as senior DJ Briggs puts it, ?You will be surrounded by people who also strive to learn. So just do it!?

Zoe Beers is a member of the Lady Trojans varsity basketball team. She has taken dual enrollment and AP courses, and she recently gave a speech concerning the environment for a political rally.


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