The Road to Graduation: AP, IB, and Dual Enrollment

Figuring out the path to graduation is complicated.

With class options like AP, IB and dual enrollment, students need to choose which path prepares them the best for college. For parents, getting on the same page as your teen is vital. Here are some insights on these different kinds of classes.


Explaining the Acronyms

AP, or Advanced Placement, classes prepare students for college because they are more difficult than typical courses. Once a student completes the course, they take an AP exam for a fee, and must score a 3 or higher on the exam to obtain college credit.

According to the College Board, more than 4.22 million public high school students took AP exams, and as a result, they:

  • earned higher GPAs in college
  • were more likely to graduate in 4 years
  • had higher graduation rates

IB, or International Baccalaureate, is an internationally recognized diploma program with college-level courses. Because of the increased cost of offering IB programs, IB diplomas are rarer. Students must take three standard or higher-level courses in the 11th and 12th grades. Additional components are required, such as:

  • an extended essay
  • a Theory of Knowledge course
  • participation in co-curricular activities that are graded upon completion

The exam fee for IB standard and higher-level exams is more expensive than the one for AP exams. Students should check college requirements when it comes to IB degrees, because some colleges only give credit for higher-level exams.

With dual enrollment classes, a student receives college credit when they take and pass college-level courses either at a local college or online. According to the 2013 National Center for Education Statistics, 1.3 million students took classes for college credit in the 2010-2011 school year. For dual enrollment classes, students should be aware that:

  • content and rigor of dual enrollment classes vary widely
  • colleges do not always award credit for DE classes
  • dual enrollment may have an impact on college athletic eligibility
  • dual enrollment eligibility varies by state and college

The Advantages

So, why should students consider taking these types of advanced classes? According to Megan Dorton of Purdue University’s Office of Admissions, the significant advantage is that these courses prepare students for college-level work. Advanced courses also make a student more competitive during the college admission process.

Plus, students may get a jump-start on completing their college degree at a lower cost, says Luann Brames, director of freshman admissions at Marian University in Indianapolis. “Bringing in college credit allows students an opportunity to pick up a minor or concentration, or compete for an internship that might not have been possible before,” Brames says.

The Disadvantages

A critical concern about these programs is that students and families don’t always understand the nuances of them. “For example, while a dual enrollment course will likely ‘transfer’ to any college in Indiana, they are potentially less likely to be recognized by colleges and universities outside of state lines,” Dorton says. Plus, just because a dual enrollment credit might transfer, that doesn’t mean that it will deduct a semester or year off a student’s college time.

Research your options. “We encourage students and parents to review and understand the institutional policies for each school they are considering,” Brames says. Students need to know if the dual enrollment credit is accepted, the grade or score required to earn college credit, and where students will get course credit general education or intended major curriculums, Brames says.

Students and parents should be sure to work closely with a school counselor before deciding on advanced courses. Parents should consider what courses will benefit the student, and not just what “looks best.”

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