High School And Homeschool Students: Concurrent And Dual Enrollment

Young male dual enrollment student sitting in a desk in a college class with older students sitting around him.

I often hear the words concurrent and dual enrollment interchanged when describing high school and homeschool students who are taking college courses at the same time as high school classes. Though very similar, these two types of enrollments are different. Understanding the differences between them is essential as each has its benefits and drawbacks.

Both, concurrent and dual enrollment are great for high school and homeschool students looking to get a head start in college and graduate high school early. In each program, you can earn high school credits needed to graduate, along with college credits. You can apply the college credits earned to a degree or certificate or to transfer to a 4-year university.

What Is Concurrent Enrollment

I started college in 8th grade at the age of 13. I was able to start college at such a young age through a concurrent enrollment program. Concurrent enrollment allows students to enroll in college courses while simultaneously attending their high school or even a lower grade. All you need is permission from a teacher, counselor, or principal. The credits earned may be used to fulfill high school and college graduation requirements.

Concurrent enrollment programs partner high schools, homeschools, and charter schools with local community colleges to help students achieve their academic goals. Most students need to drive to the community college campus to attend class. There are often online classes that make things more convenient for those who may not be able to travel to campus, have conflicting schedules, or are distant learning.

Special Admit Students

Concurrent enrollment students are considered part-time, Special Admit Students. They attend classes on campus with other college students and are taught by college professors. It’s a full college class emersion. Being a Special Admit Student has some pretty great benefits. Tuition and fees are waived and free to high school students. I paid a $35 Health Fee each semester while I was a Special Admin Student. High school students only need to purchase books, supplies, and a parking permit, if needed. Each semester, my school gave me a $100 credit which I could use at the campus bookstore. If my books and supplies were more than this it was my responsibility to pay for them.

Prerequisite Classes

Concurrent enrollment students can apply for any college-level course. Various classes offered may have some type of prerequisite. Prerequisites are used to establish a student’s readiness for the content to be covered within the course. Students can take courses required for career education, certificates or associate degrees, and transferrable credits. Concurrent enrollment students can’t enroll in more than a specified number of credits per semester. For California, the cap is 11. 11 or fewer credits they consider part-time.

The benefits of concurrent enrollment are enormous. Attending a local community college was how I graduated high school at 16, received my AS degree in Business Administration at 17, earned my BS in Business Entrepreneurship at 19, and my MBA in Entrepreneurship and Global Business at 20. You can read all about the accelerated academic path concurrent enrollment puts you on in the article, What Is High School Concurrent Enrollment?

What Is Dual Enrollment

Dual enrollment is closely related to concurrent enrollment. In both programs, students are simultaneously enrolled in high school and college classes. The classes taken earn dual credit for college and high school and may also count toward graduation. College credits earned can be applied to certificates, degrees, and transfers.

This is where the two programs differ. Dual enrollment is only for current high school students, while those 8th grade or under can’t participate. Some programs even require a student to be in the 10th grade with a 3.0 GPA. Dual enrollment classes are more focused on core classes, such as math, English, science, and history. Dual enrollment students don’t have access to all available college classes.

However, unlike concurrent enrollment, with dual enrollment, you remain on your high school campus for all classes. Classes are during regular high school days and times. There aren’t evening, night, or online courses. Most classes are taught by high school teachers. These teachers meet the qualifications to teach the college-level course. With dual enrollment, you miss college life as you are never on campus, around other college students, or interacting with college professors. However, you are taking and experiencing real college-level classes. Tuition and fees are free. Often required textbooks are provided.

Dual enrollment high school student sitting in class with headphones around his neck writing at a desk.

Are Placement Tests Required?

Placement tests, also called assessment tests, may be required for both types of enrollments. However, placement testing only applies to English and math. If you are not going to take English or math classes immediately, then you can delay taking placement tests. Check with your school to see if their agreement with the local community college requires placement tests. If their program agreement has you take placement tests, you don’t need to take both at the same time. For example, if you want to take a math class, only take the math placement. The English can wait. When I started college, I waited a full semester before I took my first placement test. I took the math placement first because I knew I would be enrolling in a math course. Then the following semester I took the English placement.

Know The Program Requirements

Every state has its own policies for concurrent and dual enrollment. I’ve heard that program requirements can vary greatly. Some states cap the number of credits students may earn while others don’t. There are states that allow students to attend full-time, while others require students to be part-time. Some states don’t care how many college-level classes you take, as long as you take high school classes half the time.

My school district required students to take a minimum of 20 high school credits to enroll as concurrent enrollment. These 20 credits became difficult during my last two semesters as I ran out of high school classes to take. My teachers and I had to get creative. I took classes like cooking, and work training—I had a part-time job, and I participated in a play that counted as theater. It fluctuates from state to state and school to school, so it’s important to know the program requirements.

For those interested in one of these programs, I recommend you go to your local community college website and do some research. If they participate, they will have instructions on what you need to do to sign up. They will also have all the paperwork necessary to begin the process.