Everyone loves a two-for-one deal. Savvy shoppers hone in on these like lasers, happy to stretch their budget dollars. For the homeschooled teen, enrolling in dual enrollment courses is similar to a two-for-one bonanza.

Dual enrollmentis the term to describe college courses taken by students while in high school. The course counts for both high school and college credit. One course is taken, one fee is paid, one curriculum is purchased, but the course shows up on both high school and college transcripts. It almost sounds too good to be true!

Many homeschooled teens are capable of doing well in college-level courses, but are dual enrollment courses for everyone? Before choosing such courses for your teens, assess their academic preparation and their physiological and emotional maturity.

Academic Preparation

To succeed in a college-level course, a student must have excellent reading and writing skills. If your teen has trouble putting his thoughts to paper or struggles with reading comprehension, it’s best to delay enrolling in college courses until these skills are further developed.

College catalogs list, in detail, the prerequisites that must be completed before enrolling in a particular course. Pay close attention—these prerequisites are meant to determine if your teen has the necessary foundation and background knowledge prior to taking the course.

Some colleges may require your teen to take an English or math placement test prior to enrolling in a course. View the results of the test as another indicator of your child’s readiness to do well in this level of course.

If your teen has already taken either of the college entrance tests—the SAT or ACT—a college may use these scores as an alternative to a placement test for enrollment purposes.

Maturity

There is more to taking a college course than academics. Class time involves discussion and interaction with the teacher and other students, the majority of whom will be over 18. It may also be necessary for your teen to communicate and meet with the teacher both in class and during office hours. Your teen cannot rely on you to contact the teacher for her. Is your teen ready for these types of interactions?

Group projects are a favorite teaching approach for most professors, so there is a good chance your teen will be involved in these. They provide experience in working with others and coming to agreement over different viewpoints. Group assignments are also a picture of life situations, including jobs, where some of the group carries a greater burden while others are along for a free ride. Learning to react appropriately to frustrations with other students is part of the maturing process.

Does your teen know how to take notes? Most college professors lecture, so they expect students to have this skill. Your teen will also need to be organized—both inside and outside of class—in a manner that allows him to devote time to readiness for class discussions, paper writing, and test taking. As a general rule, the amount of time spent studying outside of a college course is twice the amount of hours spent in the class. Your teen’s academic schedule should take this into account.

Is your teen self-motivated and willing to take full responsibility for completing assignments, or does he need someone prodding him to complete his work? You can bet that college professors will not check up on and encourage your teen to complete his assignments (and neither should you). He is on his own! Remember that the grades earned will become part of his permanent academic records.

Sources for Courses

Community College

Local community colleges are convenient locations for dual enrollment opportunities. When enrolling, be sure to check the level of the course. Many community colleges offer remedial courses that do not earn college credit and therefore will not fulfill dual enrollment requirements.

The school may offer courses online as well as on-campus, requiring the student to commute to the school for just a few class sessions. Families living a distance from the college may find that part-campus, part-online courses make community colleges a viable option.

Online Courses

Today’s technology has opened up a whole new arena of possibilities for students interested in dual enrollment. Your teen may take a course from a four-year university across the country from the comfort of your home. When considering online courses, carefully check that your computer equipment and Internet connection will support the necessary hardware and software requirements posted by the course instructor. This is not the time to hope and pray that your dying computer doesn’t crash!

Here’s an example of the requirements from one online course:

Your computer must have internet access. For better performance, a connection speed of greater than or equal to 300kbps and DSL or a cable modem are recommended. Some courses require the capability to play audio or video lectures, available in MPEG-1 Audio Layer (MP3) format and in streamed PowerPoint presentations. Browser specifications for these courses are as follows:

           •            Java-enabled

           •            Macromedia Flash Player 8 plug-ins or later

           •            Adobe Reader 8.0 plug-ins or later

           •            Recommended platforms: Internet Explorer 7.0 or later and Mozilla Firefox 3.0 or later

           •            For some courses, your computer must have Adobe Reader, which can be downloaded for free. For courses that require you to listen to audio lectures in MP3 format, a standard 56k modem with an average connection speed will download a 50-minute lecture in 20 minutes or less. For courses with lectures in streamed PowerPoint presentation format, a dial-up connection is sufficient to watch and listen to the lectures as they are downloaded.

As you can see, your equipment needs to be in good shape in order to operate well for an online course!

Online learning is becoming very popular and will continue to grow in popularity and availability in the future. However, it may be a good idea to have your teen begin by taking just one online course to see if this option is a good fit for him. A couple of websites that provide tips to determine if an online course is suitable for your teen are www.distancelearn.org/readyDL.cfm and www.cerrocoso.edu/studentservices/heather/quizaccess.htm.

General Guidelines

Dual enrollment can help your teens get ahead of the game by accumulating college credit while still in high school. On the surface, this can sound and look exciting to both you and your teens; however, there are some additional considerations to take into account.

If your teen wishes to go to college as a freshman and apply for freshman scholarships, keep a tally of the number of credits he’s earning. Both colleges and scholarship programs often have limits on the amount of credit allowed as a freshman. However, some teens look forward to shortening the college experience, so credits accrued are not an issue.

If your family is uncertain of the track to take, the following questions may help you sift through the options:

     •How much money is your teen saving by taking courses at a community college versus a four-year university (calculate in the savings of room and board, campus fees, books)? Does that savings amount to as much or more than he is likely to be awarded in scholarships?

     •How many years of residency does your teen’s major course of study require at the university?

     •Does the college of choice accept dual enrollment credits? How many?

     •Does your teen have a dream school in mind? Will transferring in provide him with a greater likelihood of acceptance?

One last question to ask: If your teen will be transferring to a college or university as an upperclassman, will she be younger than the rest of her classmates? How ready is she to be exposed to the dating scene and to friends who have been away from home for a longer period of time? These are areas worth discussing with her so that you and she will be comfortable with the situation.

Conclusion

Taking all of the above information into account, dual enrollment offers your teens an array of opportunities. Participating in these courses will not necessarily accelerate your children’s high school education. Rather, it provides challenging courses for those who are academically advanced. It is also an option for courses that are not generally available through high school curricula or for courses of interest to spice up the high school years. Dual enrollment can also open up horizons for future career possibilities.

Assess your teen’s abilities honestly, choose courses carefully, pray about it, and enjoy watching your teen blossom with the challenge. 

Becky Cooke andDiane Kummer serve as High School Coordinators for Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) and helped develop HSLDA’s Homeschooling Thru Highschool Web site six years ago. As former homeschool moms of now-grown children who have graduated from college, Becky and Diane can relate to your good times and bad! Their desire is to help you homeschool through high school with excellence. Most of all, they pray that your homeschooling years are full of joy and the delight of knowing that your investment in your teens is seen and rewarded by the Lord.

This article was originally published in the May/Jun 2011 issue of Home School Enrichment Magazine. Request a FREE sample copy at http://HomeSchoolEnrichment.com.