Dual Enrollment vs. AP: Differences, Benefits, and Tips for Students

two students with their dads

High school can be an exciting time for students — one that comes with a variety of ways to prepare for the next steps in a career, be it entering college or preparing to enter the job market. Fortunately for high school students interested in college, there are many ways to get a jump on their potential college career. 

Dual enrollment and AP classes both have advantages. However, each is unique. Learning about dual enrollment vs. AP is a great first step toward making an informed decision about your education and future. 

What Is Dual Enrollment?

Dual enrollment is a type of class that allows high school students to take college classes. It is not mandatory that all high schools offer dual enrollment, and indeed, many don’t. However, those that do often have a formal partnership with a college that allows for the creation of dual enrollment classes. These classes may occur off-campus or on-campus, or they may have a virtual component. 

There are often requirements for taking dual enrollment classes, like having taken prerequisite classes or having a minimal GPA. If a student passes the class, the class will count towards their college credit. If a student takes enough dual enrollment classes in college, it is even possible that they will be able to earn an associate’s degree by the time they finish their first year of school. 

What Are AP Classes?

AP is short for Advanced Placement. AP classes are formalized classes with a set standard of curriculum. They are considered college-level courses, and they are offered in a limited number of classes, such as history, math, computer science, and more. At the conclusion of a test, a student will take an AP test. These are standardized, formal tests that are administered throughout the country at the same time. These tests are given a grade of 1-5. Most colleges will give a student college credit for a grade of 4-5. 

What Are the Key Differences Between the Two?

On the one hand, there is a high degree of similarities when it comes to dual enrollment vs. AP classes. Both allow individuals to prepare for college. Both can provide college credit that can often be used to meet general education requirements, major requirements, or even a college degree. As such, both dual enrollment and AP classes may allow someone to finish their college requirements early and thus graduate early.  

However, that is not to say that the two are the same, and there are significant differences when it comes to dual enrollment vs. AP classes. For example:

  • Dual enrollment can be offered by an accredited school district and in conjunction with any local college. There is no set limit on the types of dual enrollment classes that can be offered. By contrast, AP classes can only be given in courses that have been created and approved by the College Board, an independent organization that is responsible for creating and administering AP courses and the AP exam.
  • Earning a passing grade in an AP class is no guarantee of earning credit for that class in college. To earn credit, a student must earn a high enough grade on the AP exam. That is usually a 4 or 5, but can be a 3 in certain circumstances. By contrast, a dual enrollment class requires only that a student earn a passing grade. As such, when it comes to college credit purposes, the sole determiner of whether or not you get credit for AP classes is your end-of-semester exam. This isn’t the case for a dual enrollment class, and the body of your entire work over a semester is ultimately responsible for this determination. 
  • AP classes are exclusively the province of high schools. Dual enrollment classes are taught in conjunction with local schools. 

What Are the Benefits of Dual Enrollment and AP?

There is some overlap between the benefits of AP and dual enrollment classes, but you shouldn’t consider dual enrollment and AP classes to be mutually exclusive. Review these benefits to get a better understanding of the advantages of taking dual enrollment and AP classes: 

  • Both classes give you extensive knowledge at a college level. This helps prepare you for college by giving you experience of the rigor that will be expected of you when you arrive at a two or four-year school. As such, these classes can help give you a leg up for when you do arrive at school.
  • Both can be highly informative about where you want to spend your time and academic career, as each class can help tune you into knowledge and an understanding of subjects that might be highly beneficial when you arrive at school. 
  • Both classes give you a chance to earn a degree faster. This, in turn, can allow you to potentially graduate early. Alternatively, it can free up your schedule to add different areas to your college experience, potentially giving you the time to double major or take more classes.

When it comes to dual enrollment vs. AP classes, both are excellent options for your career. Learning about the benefits associated with each will enable you to better prepare for your academic future. 

Scroll to Top