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  • Allison Grandits

AP vs. DE. Which Should You Choose?

Updated: Mar 11, 2021

AP vs. DE. A constant conversation and one with many considerations. As students progress through high school, course offerings typically increase, giving students a wide variety of options. These are often listed in your high school’s course catalog, and it’s helpful to consider all of your options before committing to courses.

What is Advanced Placement?

Advanced Placement (AP) is a national program created by the CollegeBoard to give students exposure to college-level course work. There are eight subject areas (Capstone, Arts, English, History and Social Science, Math and Computer Science, Sciences, and World Language), accounting for 36 unique exams. The curriculum is standardized and developed by CollegeBoard. Students typically take the course as part of their high school schedule and then sit for a 2-4 hour exam offered in May. Some schools allow students to sit for exams for classes they didn’t take, often referred to as “self-study.” Exams cost $95 each for students testing in the U.S., and some high schools will cover the cost. The exams are graded over the summer by trained readers, not the high school teacher, and the scores range from 1-5. Each college will institute a policy for what scores they will accept for each test. While many will give credit for a 3 or higher, highly selective colleges will often require a 5. Some will even limit the number of AP credits you can bring. CollegeBoard has an AP Credit Policy Search, but it is always best to check with the individual institution.

What is Dual Enrollment?

Dual Enrollment (DE) is when high school students take courses directly through a college, earning both high school and college credit. Students must be accepted by the college, and they typically go to the college (or take classes online) from actual professors.

Here in Georgia, DE has become increasingly popular over the past few years. In 2018, about 42,000 students participated across the University System of Georgia (USG), the Technical College System of Georgia(TCSG), and Private colleges in the state. This past May (2020), there were some changes to the program regarding funding and grade level participation. 11th & 12th grade students can receive funding for up to 30 hours (45 quarter hours) in core academic subject areas (English, Math, Science, Social Studies, World Language) and Career, Technical, and Agricultural Education (CTAE) courses. 10th graders can participate in CTAE courses at participating TCSG institutions if they meet minimum testing requirements. Some courses have fees (like labs), and credits from USG and TCSG institutions automatically transfer to USG and TCSG institutions. As you can see, DE can be an attractive option for students looking to get a jumpstart on college course work.

Which is Better?

Like everything in college admissions, it depends. Highly selective colleges typically view AP courses as more rigorous than DE courses due to AP courses’ standardization. An exception will be taking DE because you have exhausted your high school curriculum (ex. Taking College Linear Algebra after taking AP Calculus BC). You can ask your potential schools if they have a preference. Typically, if you hear the phrase “the most rigorous courses in your school,” they would prefer AP unless your school doesn’t offer AP courses. Like I mentioned above, DE courses are an automatic transfer to public colleges in Georgia (if you are taking them at a public Georgia college). This is a great way to get a jump start on your core curriculum, allowing flexibility to double major/have a minor, or possibly even graduate college early. However, if you plan to go to a private college or an out-of-state school, they may not accept your DE credits. It’s important to note that AP credits aren’t guaranteed either- it’s entirely possible to make an ‘A’ in the course yet a 1 on the exam, resulting in no credit, since everything is dependent on one day in May.

Many students like the flexibility of DE courses since they typically only meet two days a week, compared to five. This allows time to work or take care of family members. The trade-off is that you have fewer grades in DE courses, and one lousy test score can derail your semester. AP course assignments are often similar to regular high school courses, just more in-depth.

One crucial difference that parents may care more about than students involves communication. You have most likely monitored your students’ grades throughout high school, knowing almost instantly if they don’t turn in homework or earned a low score on a test. This will NOT be the case with DE. Professors WILL NOT communicate with parents or even the school. As a former DE coordinator, we had students who failed courses every semester, sometimes even jeopardizing graduation. Students must take the initiative if you begin to struggle and communicate with their professors about their grades.

Most of the students I work with take a combination of AP and DE courses during high school. Consider the pros and cons of both within the context of your goals for college. What do you think about AP vs. DE?

Do you have questions about how to choose your high school courses or college admissions in general? Let me know how I can help!

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