As high school students consider their goals after graduation, many worry if they are prepared for college or their future career. Their teachers or guidance counselors may recommend they try dual enrollment.

Dual enrollment (sometimes called concurrent enrollment or dual credit) is an academic program that allows students to take college-level courses while in high school and earn college credit.

Dual enrollment courses give students an opportunity to explore potential career fields and experience the rigor of college coursework. Plus, by earning college credits during high school, students can save time and money on their college degree.

But that’s just scratching the surface. Take a closer look at dual enrollment in this article as we examine how dual enrollment works, how it compares to Advanced Placement courses, and how it benefits students.

How Does Dual Enrollment Work?

High school dual enrollment programs vary by school district. But they commonly offer introductory-level college courses in a range of subjects, like math, science, humanities, and more. These courses teach the knowledge and skills needed for a basic understanding of the subject—making them a great way for students to explore their academic interests and career options.

The dual enrollment process starts with meeting the eligibility criteria set by the student’s school district or state. These typically include: 

  • maintaining a minimum GPA
  • meeting age or grade-level criteria
  • securing approval from a teacher or guidance counselor

Once students are dual enrolled, they can choose their preferred courses. Depending on what’s available in their school district, students may take dual credit courses at their local community college, in their high school, or online. No matter where students take these courses, their final grade becomes part of their official college academic records.

Dual Enrollment vs. AP® Classes

Both dual enrollment and Advanced Placement (AP) classes offer high school students opportunities to prepare for college. But there are important differences to consider before choosing to enroll in one of these programs.

Dual Enrollment vs. AP Classes

Dual enrollment courses are college courses taught by college professors. Depending on the school district, these courses can be taken on campus, in high school, or online. 

Advanced Placement classes, on the other hand, are high school courses taught by high school teachers. APs follow a standardized curriculum developed by the College Board that’s intended to be at a college level. 

Both programs expose students to the rigor of college-level coursework. But dual enrollment gives students a more authentic college experience all around.

Dual enrollment courses are usually one semester long, while AP classes take a full school year. Ambitious students could take two dual enrollment courses in the time it takes to complete one AP course. The slower pace and familiar format of AP courses may be more suitable for students who need the time and structure to adjust to college-level coursework.

Outlier Dual Enrollment by Savvas combines the best of both programs, offering online dual-credit courses in convenient 39-week cohorts. So students can earn real college credit in courses that fit smoothly into the high school academic year.

Students who struggle with test anxiety may prefer dual credit courses, which reward them for their work throughout the entire course rather than a single high-stakes exam. Passing the course grants students both high school and college credits. The college or university offering the course awards the student transferable college credit and provides an official transcript.

AP courses culminate in a standardized subject test taken by all AP students nationwide. Students who score a 4 or 5 on the AP exam may be awarded college credit when they apply to college, but it is at each college’s discretion.

Both APs and dual enrollment courses look good on college applications. Yet there is no guarantee that every institution will accept every credit. So students should understand the policies and credit transfer requirements of the school they plan to attend.


Students and their teachers may also ask dual enrollment providers about their transfer success rates before enrolling. Here at Savvas for example, Outlier courses are transcripted by the University of Pittsburgh, one of the best global universities according to the U.S. News and World Report.1 Credits from this reputable university are highly transferable. Among the more than 800 colleges and universities students have transferred to, less than 2% reported that their credits were not accepted.


Dual Enrollment Eligibility

Eligibility requirements for dual enrollment programs vary across states and school districts. Many limit dual enrollment courses to high school juniors and seniors, with some exceptions for sophomores. Students must be in good academic standing, typically with at least a 3.0 GPA. 

Some concurrent enrollment programs require students to get approval from a teacher, guidance counselor, or school administrator, as well as permission from their parents.

Prerequisites may also apply in certain subjects. For example, students interested in taking Calculus will need to complete courses in algebra and trigonometry before they can enroll. This ensures students have the necessary foundation for more advanced coursework.

To determine if your school offers dual enrollment programs and who is eligible, visit the school website or contact a guidance counselor.

Dual Enrollment Helps Students Save on College Costs

Participation in high school dual enrollment programs can significantly reduce the cost of college. For starters, concurrent enrollment courses come at a discounted rate, usually a few hundred dollars. Many colleges and universities offer scholarships specifically for dual enrollment students. Some states or institutions reduce or even waive tuition fees altogether for dual enrollment courses.

Those are significant savings compared to the traditional college course. According to the Education Data Initiative, the average college course costs $2,355 at a public university and $5,696 at a private university.2

By earning college credits during high school, students can complete a portion of their required coursework before they even apply to college. And once in college, they may be able to skip introductory or general education courses and instead focus on higher-level courses in their major. They can potentially graduate early or take a lighter course load, saving time and money on tuition fees.

Dual Enrollment Benefits

Beyond financial savings, dual enrollment offers three more benefits:

  • College Readiness: By challenging themselves in college-level courses, dual credit students develop the academic skills, resilience, and confidence to succeed in college.
  • Career Exploration: When dual enrollment students experience college-level courses in different fields, they better understand their interests, strengths, and options. This empowers them to make more informed decisions about their education and career goals.
  • A Head Start: By earning college credits in high school, students can take more advanced coursework and internships in college. Or even graduate sooner and get an early start on their career.

Discover a new kind of dual enrollment. For the needs of tomorrow.

Prepare your students for college and career success with a diverse catalog of award-winning college courses worth actual college credit from a top 50 university. All 100% online with unprecedented high school success rates. Learn more about Outlier Dual Enrollment.


  • 1. University of Pittsburgh in United States - US News Best Global Universities. U.S. News & World Report.
  • 2. Hanson, M. (2022, March 31). Average Cost per Credit Hour. Education Data Initiative.

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