If you are homeschooling your teen, you are their teacher, principal, and guidance counselor all in one. Sometimes, it makes sense to get some outside help. There are a few great ways to do that between co-ops, library and community center programs, and dual enrollment. Today I’m going to tell you the ins and outs of dual enrollment. From getting signed up and picking a class, to adding it to their transcript.
What is dual enrollment?
Dual enrollment is when a high school student takes classes at a college, usually a community college, for credits that will count both at the high school and the college level. Sometimes, these classes are even taught in public high schools. However, as a homeschool student, your child will likely take the course either online or in-person at the college.
How old should your student be?
Requirements vary, but most dual enrollment programs are designed for students who are either juniors or seniors in high school. Some colleges may have an age requirement, usually 16 years old. However, some colleges allow younger students to enroll as long as they can provide test scores and/or letters of recommendation that they can handle college-level work.
Before the pandemic, most colleges required some form of test scores to prove a student was ready for the level of work presented in the English and Math courses taught at the college. The test requirements were often to have taken either the PSAT, SAT, or ACT, or a placement test offered by the college. Since 2020, many colleges have started waiving test requirements or replaced them in some way. You will need to check with the college you plan to enroll with for their requirements.
How do you sign up?
Every college can set up its own process. So you should start by contacting the college. Many community colleges have a dual enrollment office that is part of the admissions office. Generally, you will need to create a transcript for your student, send the transcript and any required test scores to the college. You can create a transcript on your computer that will work. It should include courses they have taken and grades, a GPA, and their expected date of graduation. They may also require your student to set up a student email address or obtain a student ID number before enrolling.
You will also need to have a plan A and a plan B for what classes you want your student to take and when you want those classes to start. Study your college’s calendar to find out when a new semester will begin and when you can enroll in classes. Keep in mind, it may take a few weeks to get all of your paperwork done with the college. Don’t put off working on your process. You want all of your paperwork to be in either by the college’s deadline or at least a week or two before classes begin.
Most colleges today require freshmen to take a course in study skills or “college success.” This is a good class for your student to take as an introduction to college because that is exactly what it is designed to be. Your student may have to talk to the instructor about any assignments that are difficult to complete as a dual enrollment student. For example, some assignments expected a student to have declared a major, something dual enrollment students do not do.
Beyond an introductory course, you should be honest about your student’s readiness for college-level work. Some students are more ready for this level than others. Choosing a course in an area of strength is often a good choice. If your student has excelled at writing, taking English 101 may be a great choice. I do not recommend signing up your high school student for Honors coursework, even if they qualify. Unless your student has Ivy League goals that this will help them attain, the benefits do not outweigh the risk of biting off more than they are ready for. Hopefully, a few college courses will help your student feel excited and ready for college, not overwhelmed and defeated.
Speaking of colleges, if your student plans to attend a 4-year university after high school, check with the colleges they are interested in to see what courses they recommend. A homeschool student who wants to major in Engineering may need to take courses in math or science to prove they are ready to succeed at 4-year university. Every college has different recommendations, so read the websites of several colleges your student is interested in and contact them for clarification if you need it.
Also, research potential professors using the website ratemyprofessor.com where you can read reviews from students who have taken classes from this professor before. You will want to have the course catalog close as you will want to be able to check the section you are considering signing up for to make your best choice.
What if your student has a learning disability?
Dual enrollment students do not qualify for special needs accommodations, so your student needs to be able to complete the courses the same as a college student would. If your student has some struggles, you may want to only enroll in a single class in an area of strength.
Choose carefully and read the course descriptions. A course like sociology or psychology may sound fun but require weekly papers. Is your student ready for that? Be sure the course you select is a freshman-level course that starts with a 1, and check on www.ratemyprofessor.com to select a teacher who has a good rating.
If your student really needs a wake-up call, you may instead enroll them in a course that you believe will be a struggle for them, knowing you can allow them to withdraw before the drop date if it blows up. This date is important because it reflects whether or not you can get a refund on the course. Choose wisely. Taking a course and learning what level the work will be on for college may also help you and your student decide if they need to pursue getting accommodations once they enroll full time.
Generally, homeschooled dual enrollment students do not qualify for any kind of financial aid. The average cost of a course at a community college is $338 according to www.educationdata.org but your local community college could be far more or less. This information should be easy to find on their website. Keep in mind if the price is “per credit hour” that most courses are about 3 hours, so three times the amount per credit hour.
Compared to various ways to complete a high school course, this may or may not be reasonable for your family. Students who will qualify for grants and scholarships when attending full-time may want to just wait and attend the community college once they graduate.
What if it goes badly?
Find out all of the drop dates before your student starts classes. Usually, there is a date that you can get a full refund with no record of ever having tried the course. This date is usually just one or two weeks into the semester. You get to go to the class once and get the syllabus (list of what the class will cover). If your student goes to class once and realizes they are way in over their head, you can just withdraw and get a refund.
There is also a second drop date, usually around midterms. If it looks like your student is going to fail the course, it is best to quit by this date. You may be able to get a partial refund, and nothing about the class will be on their permanent college record. This is important because dual enrollment courses count as part of their permanent college record.
Be sure your student is keeping up with their grades, and if they are struggling, have them email or appropriately reach out to their professor. Learning to communicate with their professors is an important part of taking a dual enrollment course. Often, professors really do not want to hear from parents, so communications are best coming from your student, not you.
How to add this to their transcripts
A single-semester college course should be added to your student’s transcripts as a whole year’s worth of credits. You can also give them an additional point on their GPA for whatever letter grade they earn. This means that the course counts as a high school honors course. For the GPA, if you normally credit 4.0 for an A, an A would be 5.0, scoring a B will get you a 4.0, and a C is 3.0.
Be sure to note on the transcript the college name, course name, number, and that it was a dual enrollment course. Dual enrollment courses are an excellent way to show that your student has taken on a real challenge and been successful. Be sure you let that success show.
About the Author
Laura Sowdon, OTR/L is an occupational therapist, writer, speaker, educator and creator of the Five Senses Literature Lessons homeschool curriculum. She has worked as an occupational therapist with children in public and private schools, as well as private practice. Laura has taught and managed homeschool co-ops as well as homeschooling her own three children. Laura is dedicated to the idea of educating children at a pace that aligns with brain and physical development milestones and respects neurodiversity in all its forms.