Which Dual Enrollment Classes Should a Student Take?

Dual enrollment (DE) is a wonderful opportunity for a student to earn both high school and college credit at the same time. Keep in mind that grades for college courses go on your student’s permanent record, so stress the importance of passing the class. One college course is equal to one credit on a student’s high school transcript. In other words, one three hour college class will be counted as one full credit on a high school transcript. In most cases if a student attends a college different from the one where the DE credits are earned, the GPA is not transferred, only the credits. On the other hand, students who attend the college where they earn DE credits will more-than-likely have their GPA transferred along with the credits. Depending on the student’s earned GPA this could be an advantage or a disadvantage. Also, be aware that if the student is using a state grant then a certain minimum GPA may be required to maintain the grant.

INTENTIONALITY: If your student is ready to handle the rigors of a college class, then being intentional when choosing which classes to take is important for several reasons.

  1. If your student plans to pursue an engineering degree or certain pre-professional degrees, then the four year plan is different than that of a student pursuing a liberal arts major. Knowing which classes are part of the four-year plan will help your student choose which classes to take. However, if your student has no idea what major he intends to choose, then this advice will not be very helpful. Worse case scenario, if your student takes a class that is not on the four-year plan, that class can be counted as an elective. However, your student should be careful not to accumulate too many classes that will be counted as electives otherwise he may end up having to extend the time it takes to graduate or he may end up having to take multiple classes during a semester that are more intense than certain electives. A homeschooled student who plans to become an engineer recently visited Bryan College. He was disappointed to find out that the foreign language class he was taking at that time (as a DE course) is not a course required for the engineering degree here at Bryan. It will be counted as an elective. Had he been aware of that beforehand, he would have chosen to take a math or science class, per the advice of an academic counselor.
  2. If your student plans to take DE classes at one college, but attend a different college post-high school then he should not take classes that pertain to his major unless he knows that the college he will be attending will transfer those credits as courses that count towards the major. For instance, if a student is going to major in biology, he may not want to take biology as a DE class because the college he will be attending may want him to attend that class at their college. If that’s the case, then taking biology as a DE class would more-than-likely transfer as an elective. There are certain majors where it may not matter if the student takes classes as a DE student at one college, and then attends another. This is one reason it is helpful to have your student narrow down top college choices so that these issues can be addressed beforehand.

COURSE CHOICES: Having explained those concerns, which classes should DE students take? One of the first considerations is the student’s interests and strengths. Choosing a class that the student is likely to pass without too much of a struggle will build the student’s confidence. A student can either start with core classes or with subjects that may confirm a possible interest. My youngest son’s first DE class was philosophy (which he took during a short 5 week semester) and I was slightly concerned with his ability to handle that since it is a weighty subject and the semester was condensed to five weeks. Not only did he make an A, but that class confirmed his love of philosophy. However, if he knew he would be majoring in philosophy at a college other than Bryan, that class might have transferred as an elective. That was a risk he was willing to take and I was okay with that because it confirmed his love of philosophy.

SPECIFIC CLASSES: Taking English I and II and/or College Writing (depending on the classes offered by the college) is always a good choice. College students will be writing, and writing, and writing some more so the sooner they hone those skills, the better. If your student needs to take Foreign Language as a required high school course as well as a college course, taking foreign language as a DE course is a good idea. Math classes are always a good idea for several reasons: 1) If your child dislikes math, then getting required math classes out of the way is appealing, 2) Students who take college exams while taking math classes usually score higher on the math portions of the tests because it is fresh and 3) Students who plan to major in a STEM-related major will do well to have many math and Science classes under their belts. The students who enjoy science and/or who are pursuing a STEM-related major would do well to take both biology and chemistry as DE courses as long as they can handle the rigor of college level-classes.

As a last piece of advice, keep in mind that students need to advocate for themselves. In fact, you will not even be able to have a conversation with an employee of the college about your child’s classes unless your child has signed a FERPA. Plan to have discussions prior to your student entering high school when possible. This sixteen minute podcast may help you in the decision making process as you plan courses for your student’s high school years. Knowing options ahead of time will lessen the likelihood of making poor decisions. Feel free to contact me at pat.wesolowski@bryan.edu if you need help or if you have questions relating to dual enrollment courses.