Monday, February 7, 2011
Dual Enrollment and Challenging Coursework
The most important thing I always focus on is that the student (and parents) should sit down with their guidance counselor and chart out a path that will challenge the student to the best of their ability. Is that taking the IB program in their school, taking Honors and AP courses, a mix of AP and dual enrollment, or if there are no advanced courses at the high school, focus on dual enrollment, etc. If you want to prepare yourself for college, and especially a competitive college like UGA, then you want to come in prepared to to the work. I sat in on a program for 8th grade parents last month that helped prepare students to register for 9th grade classes, and this same thought was stated as well by the school officials. We know the challenges of Honors and Gifted courses early on, and of AP/IB courses in the later years, as well as dual enrollment. For some students, AP courses are readily available and allow them to remain in their school throughout the day, and are a great stepping stone to the challenge they will see in a college class. For others, their high school may have limited options in school, and a local college course is the best route. At UGA, I have seen several students who were beyond their HS's capacity in the math and foreign language areas, and UGA was a great option to fill this need. But I will say again, the choice of courses needs to reside in the student's hands, not in UGA's. The only serious issue that I have seen with dual enrollment, especially if not taught on the college campus, is that a number of selective private colleges may not accept these courses as transfer work, but you would need to communicate with the colleges to which you are applying (or check their transfer equiv. charts).
Now, when UGA calculates a high school GPA, we can use the applicant's dual enrollment grades if the grades show up on the high school transcript, which most do. When we calculate a GPA, we are trying to get the best understanding of the student's core grades as possible, but we also want to have as fair a process as possible in our review. When we add weight to a student's grades, it is only for AP or IB grades, as these course are nationally and internationally standardized through the College Board and IB programs guidance. While we certainly look at Honors/Gifted/Accelerated/Dual Enrollment courses in our review of a student's rigorous schedule, these courses are not standardized within a county or state, much less internationally. I have seen dual enrollment courses that range from Ivy League colleges to 2 year technical schools, and I have seen such a wide range of Honors courses to know that there is no nationally standardized basis for the coursework (again this year I saw an Honors PE course on a transcript).
There have been a number of studies about students and challenging courses in high school (especially on AP courses), and the consensus is that a student is better prepared and has stronger college grades if they have taken advanced courses in high school. And the focus is generally not on the exam score of the course, but on the actual participation in challenging courses that has an impact on future grades.
So challenge yourself now in high school, and you will be better prepared for the future.