According to an article on Education Insider, entitled “Should High School Students Take College Classes,” over 70% of high schools in America offer some sort of dual enrollment program and with good reason. The article enumerates several seductive benefits including
- increased rates of enrollment at four-year institutions
- higher GPAs in college
- decreased cost of a college education
- impressing college admissions officers by suggesting persistence and initiative
But, and it’s a big but, only if the student is adequately prepared, and I will add mature enough, for the hardships of completing demanding college courses at the same time he or she is enrolled in college preparatory high school classes, which can also be demanding. According to the article,
Even the most socially well-adjusted and academically talented high school students can struggle with the unique pressures of college… It’s important for students to understand the demands of just one college course.
Is it fair to a 16 or 17-year-old who is navigating the physical and emotional stresses of late adolescence to compound the difficulty of this time with the stringent demands of college-level courses?
I freely admit that some of my dual-enrolled students have been my best ones, largely because they were indistinguishable from their classmates in appearance and levels of maturity, often times more mature than their college-aged classmates.
Yes, I have had some very good high school students who make very good grades and whose behavior is very good. And I have also seen some of them stress unnecessarily over minor grades that carry little weight. I have seen them put inordinate pressure on themselves to make A’s and dissolve into tears in my office over the demands of sophomore-level survey of literature courses that they simply were not emotionally prepared to handle.
Even the most mature and successful high school student may not be ready to navigate the pressures of college. Think how many post-secondary college students struggle emotionally in their first year, many dropping out.
Therefore, if you are a parent who is rightly concerned about the cost of education and are considering dual-enrollment classes, please ask the following questions:
- Is my child adequately prepared, emotionally and academically, to take on the demands of college-level classes?
- What will my child’s rights and responsibilities be when in a college classroom?
- What are my rights and responsibilities when my child is taking a college class?
- How involved can I be without interfering with my child’s college experience?
- How will I and my child react if he or she receives a less than expected grade on an assignment or in a class with demanding material?
- Do I expect my child to work as well as take high school and college classes?
- Is this dual-enrollment program right for my child?
- Should my child take more than one college-level course?
- How much help with my child’s classes, from the high school, college or myself, will be too much and negate the benefits of the college experience?
- Does my child want to take college-level classes or would she or he rather have a less rigorous junior and senior year and enjoy social and extra-curricular activities?
- And something many people don’t know to ask: Am I aware of the potential NEGATIVE effect on college admissions if my child takes too many classes? Some college-level credit can be a good thing when applying to colleges as it can show initiative and resilience; however, too much may be detrimental, as noted in the article mentioned above:
- Parents, counselors and teachers might encourage their students to take on a college course under the assumption that admissions officers look favorably upon applicants with postsecondary credits on their transcript. In fact, many college admissions officials are concerned some high school students are spending too much time in dual enrollment programs, in effect ‘dropping out’ of life at their high schools. This may act against students’ admission chances at colleges that highly value community involvement.
If dual-enrollment is not right for your child, you can still save money on your child’s education. Consider the following:
- Monitor your children’s academic progress but let them manage obstacles on their own –ask questions about school, look at homework, read and learn along beside them.
- Show an interest in all school activities.
- Seek a tutor for difficult subjects–my father found a math tutor for me through a local college at no cost to us. I made an A in geometry that year. The only A in a math class that I made in high school.
- Begin searching for scholarships early. If you know the academic or athletic requirements that will give your child the best chance at gaining the scholarship, you can use those standards to help motivate his or her performance in the classroom and help the student choose appropriate classes and extracurricular activities
- Encourage your child to pursue community service opportunities. Many civic organizations offer scholarships to students who are active in the community. More importantly, service to others develops character and helps children become more externally motivated, so important in these “me first” days in which we live.
- Apply for summer programs at a nearby college–more and more colleges are offering “college experience” programs for sophomores and juniors to ease into the college experience without the demands of college-level assessment.
- The list goes on and on.
Having completed a Masters in English Education, been certified to teach English and German (6-12) in four states (Ohio, Colorado, Georgia, and North Carolina), taught in both private and public high school as well as having spent 23 years at the college I now serve as both an adjunct and full-time instructor, I have come to the conclusion that dual enrolled students can be highly successful in a well-conceived and administered program that offers a true college experience, but only if they are properly prepared both academically and emotionally for the experience .