Dual enrollment 101

Students listen to a lecture by a professor.

#1: What exactly is dual enrollment?

Dual enrollment (sometimes called concurrent enrollment) is a program that allows high-school students to take college-credit-bearing courses. Depending upon the arrangement between the high school and the college, dual-enrollment classes may be taught within the high school, on the college campus, or online/at a distance.

In Colorado, almost 40% of students take at least one dual-enrollment class at some point in grades 9-12, according to the Colorado Department of Higher Education.

#2: What are the pros and cons to dual-enrollment courses?

You may already have an idea of why dual enrollment is right for you, but here are some things you may not have thought of:

  • Dual enrollment can be incredibly beneficial for students who want to get a jump-start on college courses and get experience with the rigor of college-level work. Additionally, many college admissions offices consider dual-enrollment credits a strong indicator of college readiness and future college success — so long as you demonstrate strong performance in the classes. (Psst: We love that you’re doing college-level work before college!)
  • You might be able to take courses your high school doesn’t currently offer in its regular curriculum. This might mean more depth in a subject you already love, or it might mean trying something new.
  • Some schools promote dual enrollment as a way to save money or save time. It’s true that dual-enrollment credits can be leveraged to help you meet your college goals directly and quickly. For many students, however, dual enrollment gives them flexibility to stay in school for the typical four years but fit in a double major or explore other topics of interest. College is all about exploring your passions and discovering what you want to do with your life. Dual enrollment can help you start that process, but don’t rush it — there’s more to your college experience than just the credits you earn.

There may be some drawbacks to dual enrollment, so check in with your high school counselor to help guide you through any potential pitfalls. Some reasons to reconsider dual enrollment include:

  • The course can help enhance your resume, but you don’t want it to replace something else you value, such as required high-school courses or extracurriculars that are important to you.
  • Dual-enrollment courses are real college courses for real college credit. If you aren’t up to the workload, the course may do more harm than good. Challenge yourself, but don’t overwhelm yourself.
  • Dual-enrollment courses are treated differently by each college and sometimes by different departments within a college or university. Don’t assume that you’ll graduate college early or never have to take another math or writing class because of your dual enrollment.
  • Some students love a subject so much that they want to dive into it through dual enrollment. But consider the benefits of saving the depth for your college experience, where you will have more selection and perhaps more specialization.

#3: Where should I start?

This one’s easy: Talk to your high-school counselor! Dual-enrollment options and eligibility vary from high school to high school and from state to state. The experts are almost always built right in at your school and ready to answer any questions you have.

#4: Do my dual-enrollment credits transfer to CSU?

CSU always accepts dual-enrollment credits for core subjects that are college-level academic courses in which you’ve earned a grade of C- or better. Simple, yes? Sure. But there’s a bit more to it. How the credits apply to your CSU degree (as elective courses or meeting requirements in your major) depends on various factors, such as the major you’re admitted to. What do you need to know now? Your dual-enrollment credits work at CSU. And we can’t wait to have you here!

Bonus: Quotes from students who’ve been there

“I learned early on how efficiency could aid in my future success in school, and save me money. I did get to skip a couple of classes at CSU because of my incoming credits, which was nice — though, many of my credits were not applicable and could not be used because of the specific focus of my major.” –Hadley Rentz, senior, Music Therapy & Language, Literature, and Culture

“Being dual-enrolled helped to prepare me for college in a ways that I did not expect. Not only did it give me a leg up academically, but it also helped me learn how to self-advocate. Being dual-enrolled at a community college for three out of my four years of high school forced me to learn how to get comfortable reaching out to professors and other resources when I was struggling.” –Naomi Davis, senior, Music Therapy

“I definitely am seeing the benefits of being a dual-enrolled student now; I got a sneak peak of what college was going to be like! I know that one of the biggest benefits I am seeing is being able to take on more majors, minors, or concentrations while still being able to graduate in four years and not take more than 15 credits each semester.” -Karen Villar Rodriguez, senior, Sociology

“My dual-enrollment experience allowed me to take courses on a college campus, so I got to experience how that felt and learned how to navigate campus. I also learned how to self-advocate when it came to making friends with others in the class to study or get notes or when I had to talk to the professor. Some tips I have are to remind yourself that you belong there just as much as anyone else. Do not be intimidated by the idea that actual college students are sitting around you. Most importantly, ask for help when you need it because no one does it alone.” –Karen Villar Rodriguez, senior, Sociology

“My best advice would be to participate in as much dual-enrollment as possible, and do your best to keep those classes as broad/general as possible so that they may be applicable to the general requirements for your university.” –Hadley Rentz, senior, Music Therapy & Language, Literature, and Culture

Prairie Smallwood

Prairie Smallwood is a writer and content creator for the Office of Admissions at Colorado State University. She is passionate about education and exploration, and knows that going to college can be both an adventure and an overwhelming experience. She aims to create content that helps students through that journey — the wonderful, the scary, and everything in between.