Which is the best choice for my student?
Advanced Placement classes and Dual Credit courses are available in most high schools for the ’23-’24 school year. The big question is this: Which class is most appropriate for my high school student? And, like most other questions, one thing does lead to another. Begin by considering your student in these areas:
1. Are they an independent learner or do they need consistent, academic support?
2. Are they a mature, focused individual?
3. Are they challenged or frustrated by rigorous educational courses?
4. Will my student attend a 2-year or 4-year college/university?
5. What are my student’s goals?
6. Will my student be pursuing a master’s degree? Will they be taking college entrance exams or the M-cat?
AP prepares students for an exam to prove their college readiness on the said subject to earn college credit whereas Dual Credit allows students to earn credit for high school and college at the same time.
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Let’s begin by defining Advance Placement and Dual Credit
Advanced Placement classes provide high school credit for specific high school courses. AP classes have tests at the end of the course; upon a passing grade (either a 3 or 4 – see additional info below) a student may get credit for the course in the university of their choice (again, see below for explanation and exemptions at some universities).
Dual Credit courses allow a student to gain high school credit, as well as college credit when a student makes a passing grade at the completion of the course. (See additional explanation below for exemptions to this policy per specific colleges/universities)
Advantages of AP Classes
AP teachers are high school teachers. They are accustomed to offering academic support to students and are invested in a student’s success. AP teachers offer tutorials and suggest mentoring, as well as study groups to increase students’ understanding of course materials. They are available to students and parents for conferences.
The rigor of AP is exciting to students who enjoy the subject they are taking. AP classes tend to take a deep dive into courses. Students who love learning about a particular subject will be well suited for the class.
Students who plan to attend a four year university and already know their major field of interest will likely do well in an AP class focused in that field. Students with high academic goals who know their future career paths should take AP classes which will help them learn as much as possible about the career they plan to pursue.
If a student is dependent upon scholarships or pursing acceptance into a competitive university, taking AP classes may be helpful. With the additional 10 points added to grade point averages (GPA), a student’s GPA will benefit. Scholarship committees and university admissions counselors appreciate the academic rigor of AP classes and understand a student is serious about their education. However, failing an AP class will result in the student losing the +10 points and will not be an advantage when applying for scholarships or meeting the academic standards of a competitive university.
Considerations Prior to Enrolling in AP Classes
AP classes are highly rigorous, compared to a regular class. The courses require homework and meeting deadlines. Typically, when an academic deadline is made, it must be met. Students who do not meet deadlines are subject to grade penalties which can impact semester averages. If a student is overloaded with too many AP classes, a job, athletic endeavors, or stressful pressures in their personal life, the burden can lead to student burnout and difficulty being successful in school. It is wise to consider taking only two AP courses per semester.
A student who does not pass the AP class they are enrolled in will not receive credit for the high school course or the college course work. If a student passes the AP class and does not pass the AP test, they will receive credit for the high school course, but will not receive credit for the college course. Most universities will only accept a score of 4 on the AP exam, but some may accept the score of 3. If a student knows the school they will attend, it is wise to check the school’s policy on acceptance of AP scores.
Historically some universities, especially private schools, choose not to accept AP class credits. Again, it is wise to check with admissions counselors and the dean of the school regarding policies of AP, as well as dual credit classes. Universities may require major fields of study hours to be achieved on the local campus.
Advantages of Dual Credit Classes
Dual Credit classes are the most economically advantageous way to gain a college education. If a student begins taking dual credit classes their junior year of high school, they can feasibly gain enough college credit hours to be considered a sophomore, or even a junior upon entry to college. Considering the cost of college credit hours, room and board, expenses living on campus, and upon graduation, a year’s or two years’ wages, dual credit easily becomes a significant saving for pursuing a college diploma.
Students should wisely choose their dual credit classes. If a student is majoring in pre-med, they should be cautious if considering a dual credit class in the advanced sciences or math. They may not receive the in-depth information which will help them experience success at the advanced level.
Since dual credit courses are not as academically rigorous as AP courses, students’ GPA’s can be elevated through dual credit. Again, it is dependent upon the student, their area of interest, and their dedication to the subject.
Dual Credit courses tend to take a broad, rather than deep view of a subject. If students are not particularly interested in a subject, but need the course for credit, dual credit may be the way to go. For example, dual credit government is a great class for an English, science, pre-med or math major.
Considerations for Dual Credit Classes
Professors are just like the population – unique. If possible, research tools that university and high school partnerships have and apply that research to professors. Some popular “Pick-A-Prof” apps help students understand characteristics of certain professors, ascertaining if the professor will be a good fit for them.
Students who enter their university experience as a sophomore or junior, may not be emotionally equipped to thrive in a collegiate environment. The expectation of advanced courses at the college level is different than those at the freshman or even sophomore level. If a student lacks maturity (academically, developmentally, emotionally) they may not be as successful as if they entered as a freshman or sophomore. Some students may feel they missed the true college experience if they are only on a university campus one or two years.
There is much to consider in enrolling for either dual credit or advance placement classes. Taking account of your student’s plan for their future, how mature your student is, and assessing if your student is an independent learner or if they need on-going support will help you both make a wise, thoughtful decision. A tremendous ally is always your school counselor. If your student’s school counselor is not up to date with college entrance requirements and best courses of action, contact your district’s office for guidance.