Like many motivated teens, Kylie started college in her junior year of high school.
To make this happen, she supplemented her regular classes with advanced courses that counted as both high school and college credit. By the time Kylie walked across the auditorium stage to accept her high school diploma two years later, she also had a semester’s worth of college credits completed, a trophy to two years of discipline and extra study.
About a month after she received her high school diploma, she got a call from her prospective college’s registrar. “Sorry,” they told her. “These credits won’t work with the degree program you have selected. You’ll have to retake them.”
Kylie was horrified. All the extra work she put into earning dual credit in high school was wasted.
Stories like this might make you wonder if dual credit is worth it. Going through extra-hard classes that might end up not counting for college? No thanks.
But the good news is, dual credit doesn’t have to be the game of roulette that Kylie experienced. That terrible phone call could have been avoided if her parents had known about the 4 most common mistakes parents and students make when pursuing dual credit.
If you avoid these pitfalls, your student can safely navigate the choppy dual-credit waters, save time and effort, and emerge from high school victorious, with credits that will actually transfer to their future college.
Mistake #1: Rushing into college
I get it… the rosy promise of earning college credit at a young age is tempting.
But be warned. Ushering your child into the halls of higher education too soon can backfire. Rather than give them a boost, the stringent courses can erode some students’ motivation and confidence. Starting college in high school could also steal time away from life lessons your student might need before taking the plunge into adulthood.
Dual credit is an amazing opportunity… if your student is ready for it. Your student is probably not ready for dual credit if they:
- must be prompted to do homework well or complete it on time
- depend on tutoring or study help
- struggle with their current high school topics
- have a full schedule
- have extracurricular activities which demand a large amount of energy or focus
- are uncomfortable interacting with a wide range of ages or beliefs
- fear communicating and advocating for themselves in a classroom setting
- have non-scholastic goals that they want to complete B.C. (before college, that is)
If you feel your student may not be ready for college, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. When it comes down to it, education isn’t about a person’s age when they don a cap and gown. Education is about pursuing a personalized, curiosity-fueled learning plan at the best pace for your student.
Not enrolling your student in dual credit could be the chance they need to grow before diving into the rigors of higher education.
Mistake #2: Taking courses without researching college transfer policies.
Colleges and universities make their own rules about whether or not a course from another institution “fits” their degree requirements. This independent standard makes reliably transferring credits really complicated.
In fact, over 70% of students lose at least half of their transfer credits. Here are a few ways you can actively prevent this from happening to your student:
Match accreditation. There are a few different kinds of accreditation… and they are not all equal. Be on the lookout for the term “regional accreditation,” which indicates the most transferable and respected level of nation-wide accreditation. The accreditation level of your dual credit institution should match the accreditation level of your student’s prospective college.
Talk to the Office of the Registrar. If your student already has a good idea of where they want to go to college, take a list of desired dual credit courses to that chosen institution’s Office of the Registrar. The registrar can tell you 1) whether the courses are transferable under the school’s current policy, and 2) if the school can “grandfather in” your student’s credit at a later time, even if policies change.
Take general education courses, not specialized topics. Transfer policies change all the time. A specialized course locks a student into a particular field of study, with the high likelihood of the course being rejected as transfer credit or going out of date before it can be applied to a degree program. Instead, stick with general education classes, which are required by nearly every institution and major. They’re so common that they transfer much more easily.
Enlist help. To protect yourself from credit waste, consider a credit transfer advocate such as Unbound. Our Central Registrar’s office compiles dual credit options accepted by over 1,200 institutions to pinpoint the exact transfer requirements of your target school. Free from the worry of losing transfer credit, you and your student can fearlessly choose the best dual-credit route for your lifestyle and higher education goals.
Mistake #3: Choosing a dual credit option that cheapens the college experience.
Depending on what dual credit option you pursue, you could end up undermining your student’s college experience rather than enhancing it.
High schools that offer dual credit, for example, can be guilty of offering watered-down courses, particularly if they are taught by lower-credentialed high school teachers instead of tenure-track professors from a local college.
Outline what would make a good “college experience” for your student before choosing a dual credit program. A respected local university may provide the serious classroom setting that a more structured student craves, while a free-spirited child might prefer the flexibility and self-paced access of an online course.
Identifying just what you want out of the experience will help you find the best path.
Mistake #4: Making Dual Credit about something other than learning
It can be easy to make college about something other than equipping your student for life. College is expensive. It takes a long time. Plus, with credential inflation, it seems like higher and higher degrees are expected just to find a good job. That takes more time. (And more money.)
Dual credit offers solutions to these problems. It can be incredibly efficient, propelling students into an early career launch.
But remember: dual credit is about learning. Not money. Not time. Not bragging rights for seeing your child graduate early. It is about the zest to live a curious life.
Sit down with your student and think together about their educational future, apart from the distractions of study time and finances. What is good for them?
Pursue that goal relentlessly. If that goal is best served by combining high school and college studies, you have found yourself a truly excellent reason to pursue dual credit.
Dual credit is a fantastic option for many high school students. And it might be perfect for yours.
So do your research, respect your child’s maturity level, find a dual credit program that fits their needs, and keep your eyes on the prize of an excellent college education, and your student can’t go wrong.
Now that you’ve demystified dual credit and paved the way for your student’s smooth transition from high school to college, it’s time step back and enjoy the process. You’ve got this!
If you’re interested in pursuing dual credit with your student, don’t do it alone. Unbound can give your student everything they need to succeed. Our self-paced online courses will blend in seamlessly with your student’s high school studies, allow them to study at their own pace, and are guaranteed to transfer to their future college. Click here to learn more.
If Shelbie has a cup of tea, a good book, or a deep conversation, she is a happy camper. With a background in accounting, classical music, and blogging, she believes learning is one of life’s greatest adventures.Read more by Shelbie