Most high school seniors have one main goal in mind: graduate high school in order to attend their dream school. But, what if you have two schools fighting for your attention? What if you’re hoping to pursue a double major or an accompanying minor, but your university doesn’t have every option? What if you’re hoping to take more credits than a university allows and want to double up? What if you want to attend two community colleges instead of the more expensive four-year university? If any of these scenarios remind you of yourself, then dual enrollment, or attending two schools concurrently, may be the perfect route for you.
Let’s dive into what exactly dual enrollment is, along with the pros and cons.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT DUAL ENROLLMENT
This can have different meanings. One scenario is a current high school student who takes a course or two at a local community college. Or, it can be a student who is enrolled at two community colleges. Or, it can be a student who is enrolled at a community college and a four-year university. If you’re really adventurous, it can even be a student who is enrolled at TWO four-year universities.
Before jumping into the benefits and challenges of dual enrollment, make sure you check with the institutions you are hoping to attend and check if it is allowed and how many credits you can transfer if needed.
BENEFITS OF DUAL ENROLLMENT
• CAN BE CHEAPER: If you choose to attend two community colleges, that can be cheaper than attending just one four-year university. According to The College Board, a community college cost an average of $3,131 in 2012. Meanwhile, a four-year university cost $8,655. That’s a big difference.
• TAKE MORE CREDITS: You can take more credits at the same time. Let’s say that your university only allows you to take 18 credits. But, you want to take more. Take extra classes at your other school. If you want to get one major at one university and another major at another university, do it.
• FLEXIBLE SCHEDULE: Scheduling classes is easier! You have two schools to work with. That means you have a better chance of having the ideal schedule for you. For example, maybe a physics class is only offered in the Fall at one school but is offered year-round at the other school. So, you can take physics whenever your heart desires.
CONS OF DUAL ENROLLMENT
• HEAVY WORKLOAD: You will be BUSY. You need to seriously consider if attending two colleges simultaneously is something you can handle.
• LESS FREE TIME: You will meet more people but may not have as much time to socialize. If you can make it work in your schedule, you will have a plethora of clubs and activities to participate in. However, the heavy workload may consume your time and leave you feeling like you have negative hours in the day, leaving no time to socialize. Extroverts, this is a big decision for you.
• DOUBLE CHECK THE RULES & POLICIES: There are rules and you need to look into them! For example, let’s say that you’re going to attend two community colleges and then transfer to a four-year university. You need to check the College Affordability Guide and check how many transfer credits your desired university accepts. Each university has different policies and limits.
IS IT RIGHT FOR YOU?
Thus far, are you confident in your decision to attend two colleges at once? If not, that’s ok! It is NOT for everyone.
On the contrary, if you’re sure that this is the path for you, get started as soon as possible. If you’re a high school student, even better. Rates of dual enrollment has skyrocketed over the years amongst those in their teenage years.
In a report by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) in 2010, we learn that 82 percent of public high schools give the option of dual enrollment to their students. On top of that, 1.4 million of these students chose to enroll in college courses when given the chance.
An example of an increase in dual enrollment at the college level is seen at Texas Online College. This chart shows the number of students who pursued this option over a 10-year period.
In 10 years, dual enrollment skyrocketed from impacting 11,921 students to 91,303 students. That’s a BIG jump.
FINANCIALLY MAKING IT WORK
Ok, now that you’ve made your decision, let’s dive into how you will afford your education.
First off, if you are seeking out federal financial aid, you can only accept assistance for ONE school at a time. Get familiar with the following word: FAFSA. It’s an acronym for “Free Application for Federal Student Aid.” In order to receive any federal aid, you must fill out this form ANNUALLY. Gather your tax information and visit studentaid.gov to fill out the form.
Next, let’s go over the types of aid you can receive to help make that college tuition price tag seem less daunting.
• LOANS: You can accept a loan, which you will have to pay off in the future. However, it does accumulate interest.
• GRANTS: If you’re offered a grant, that is basically free money that you don’t have to pay off.
• SCHOLARSHIPS: A scholarship is offered typically through your university or local organization. You don’t need to pay it back, but occasionally renewable scholarships have standards you must meet in order to keep earning the scholarship. Make sure to check out any guidelines if you receive a scholarship.
Unless you receive a scholarship for your other school, you will need to pay out of pocket for your second college. FAFSA will only support one school at a time. Make sure to save up if you’re planning on attending two schools.
To learn about your financial options in more depth, click here.
Now that you have a better idea regarding your education and what route you want to take, you have some serious decisions to make. Start by visiting this link at DMstudents.com to help you start thinking of what major(s) you want to pursue.