Will Dual-Enrollment Student Lose Out on Freshman Scholarships?

Question: I am finishing 10th grade now and am planning to take Dual Credit courses at a community college next year, but some friends have told me that if I take these courses, I could lose the chance to get some scholarships in my first college year. This is because of the fact that when I take Dual Credit courses, I am a freshman, a fact that could keep far away from getting scholarships that requires me to be a first year student in my college. Should I take dual credit courses or not? Thank you for reading, I expect your response soon.

You are smart to be planning ahead … both by considering a Dual Degree program and by asking about how these credits might affect future scholarships. This answer may be a little confusing so write back if you have more questions.

Typically, there are two ways to approach a Dual Degree program. Sometimes a student who is a rising high school junior, like you, takes all of his or her classes at a community college for two years and, at the end of the second year (when the student would ordinarily be graduating from high school), he or she earns an Associates' Degree from the community college. Usually the high school diploma is awarded at that time. Students who take this route can then enter some four-year colleges or universities as a transfer student. We'll call this “Plan A."

Some colleges, however, do not recognize Dual Degree credits if the student is ALSO using these credits to graduate from high school. So, if you were to attend one of these colleges, you would still be entering as a freshman (although you might get credit for SOME of your college classes, depending on the four-year school's policy. You might also be able to skip requirements or accelerate into advanced classes, depending on the level of classes you took at the two-year school). We'll call this “Plan B."

Therefore, if you apply to Plan A colleges after earning an Associates Degree, it's possible that you will not be eligible for some scholarships that are earmarked for entering freshmen. BUT … there are other scholarships (offered by both the colleges themselves and by national organizations) that are specifically for strong transfer students, especially those coming from community colleges. Moreover, if you can attend the community college for free for two years (which is usually the policy when teenagers opt for Dual Enrollment) then you will be saving a bundle of money because your first two years in college will cost nothing (except, perhaps, for the cost of books and other incidentals). And two years of free college is a lot better than most of the scholarships that go to freshmen!

If, however, you apply to Plan B colleges, then you will not lose out on potential scholarships for first-year students due to your Dual Enrollment credits because you will be viewed as a freshman.

In addition, wherever you enroll after your two Dual Enrollment years, you will be eligible for need-based financial aid, if you qualify. Need-based financial aid is determined by a family's income and assets and will not be significantly affected by whether you enroll as a freshman or as a transfer. And the colleges with the best need-based aid are commonly those that accept the strongest students. Thus, by taking Dual Enrollment classes, you might position yourself well for acceptance at one of these top schools. You will have already proven to admission officials that you are willing to challenge yourself and that you can succeed in a college environment. (Although sometimes community college classes are not more rigorous that comparable Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate classes taught in high schools, they often require students to be more independent than high school classes do, which admission officials appreciate.)

So my advice would be to stop worrying about losing out on financial aid if you want to take Dual Enrollment classes. If you would like more advice on how to maximize your Dual Enrollment experience when it's time to apply to colleges, write back. Meanwhile, best of luck.