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Become a College Student Before You Finish High School

Become a College Student Before You Finish High School

Many high school students are focused on getting accepted to a college or university, but an increasing number of students are looking ahead and earning college credit before they even arrive to campus. This can happen through dual enrollment.

Dual enrollment allows high schools students to begin undergraduate classes for credit. Unlike Advanced Placement (AP) classes, which award credit based on a test, dual enrollment courses award credit, as long as the student passes the class. Research has shown that dual enrollment can lead to higher grades in high school and make students more likely to complete an undergraduate degree.

"Students interested in dual enrollment should talk to their guidance counselors," said Marian Anderfuren, a spokeswoman for Tidewater Community College, which has 1,600 students in their dual enrollment program.

Whether or not dual enrollment is the right option for a student, “Depends on the student, academic load in their high school and how many extracurriculars they are involved in,” she said.

A college counselor also can help students determine what requirements they need to meet to enroll in college classes. In some states, students seeking dual enrollment must pass a proficiency test. Some colleges require high school students to be a certain grade level.

If a university offers online classes, students can get a good idea of what will be required of them on campus and make connections with professors before their freshman year.

Payment for the classes can vary. High school students are not eligible for federal aid, but in some cases, high schools, school districts or certain colleges will subsidize the classes. Some community colleges offer classes for less than $100. In any case, students should ask the college and their admissions counselor about scholarships they could be eligible for.

Finally, students should make sure they are ready to add a college class onto their current load of classwork. "College classes can be more challenging than high school ones," said Litza F. Echeverria Rubio, dual enrollment coordinator at the University of Florida.

“One of the main benefits of a dual enrollment program is how it prepares students for the rigor of college coursework,” she said. “If classes are chosen carefully, students are able to get themselves ahead in their quest for college degrees.”

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