AP vs Dual Enrollment Courses – Which Are Better?

Anh-Thu Nguyen, Writer

When choosing classes, you might consider enrolling in a more rigorous class, such as an Advanced Placement (AP) or other courses that give college credits (dual enrollment courses). These courses are advertised to be faster pace, more challenging, larger workloads than other courses. Then why would a student choose to take a course that is more difficult if it is not required? And what is the difference between APs and dual enrollment classes?

There are many benefits to taking these high-level courses.

APs and dual enrollment classes look great on college applications.

Many people can take honors classes, so by taking one of these rigorous courses you stand out, especially if you do well in them. Colleges prefer to see you challenge yourself. Getting a B or B+ in an AP or college course is more acceptable than getting the same grade in an honors or regents class. These classes are supposed to be difficult; colleges are aware of this. 

Receive college credit

The main reason students take AP or college-level courses is to get some form of college credit, whether that is paying for the credits directly or taking an AP exam to receive credits. 

GPA boost

When you enter your senior year, class rankings are important. By taking dual enrollment classes or APs, you can boost your GPA. Each honors level class at Monroe-Woodbury High School adds 1.03 points to your overall grade in that class. Each AP or College Credit/Advanced Placement adds 1.05 points to your overall grade in that course. 

There are various benefits to taking APs or dual enrollment classes, but which one is better? 

That depends on many different factors. Both allow you to earn college credits in different ways.

College credit through Advanced Placement

To earn college credits through an AP course, you must take an AP exam. The AP exam is generally around 3 hours long and often consists of a set of multiple choice questions and a free-response section. Some AP tests, such as AP English Language and Composition, require you to write multiple essays for one test. 

The only way to earn college credit is to pass the AP exam, a score of 3 or higher. Typically the higher the score, the greater the chance of colleges accepting the credit. A 5 is the highest you can score on an AP exam. 

Many students choose to pursue AP credit as it is more widely accepted by colleges across the country. 

If you decide to take the AP exam it is important to study and recognize the trends in the test questions because the chance of you acquiring college credit is based solely on this one test day. 

College credit through dual enrollment

To earn college credit through dual enrollment students must register by themselves through the school that is offering it. Most of these are SUNY schools, such as University at Albany’s University in the High School program (UHS). As long as you pay the price of the course and do well, you earn college credit. 

Enrolling in college courses is typically more expensive than taking an AP Exam. However, the cost of dual enrollment classes is cheaper than the price of tuition for the same class at the same college. 

The grading system is slightly different. Teachers will input your grades into the college’s grading portal, changing your number grades to letter grades. You should keep in mind the grades you earn will be on a real college transcript. 

Some students choose this option because they do not have to worry about losing their college credit based on their performance on one test. However, some colleges do not accept SUNY credits, so it is important to check with colleges you are considering applying to and make sure they accept the credits. 

There are many pros and cons for each option. 

Some teachers recommend dual enrollment credit as it allows you to learn more, while the AP restricts what you need to focus on. 

“In my opinion, the dual enrollment course provides a more comprehensive curriculum, whereas the AP course only focuses on key aspects of the course,” said Mr. Demarco, AP chemistry teacher. 

Others recommend paying for both the AP exam and SUNY credit to ensure you receive college credit either way. 

“Ideally, I think all students would register for SUNY Orange credit, but taking the AP exam is a useful challenge for the students who want to take it, and for those that do well, they can secure college credit to a wide range of schools. However, I always strongly advocate for not just taking the AP Exam– students work too hard over the course of the year to be deprived of college credit because of one bad test day,” said Mr. Bacha, an AP United States History teacher.

Choosing between an AP or dual enrollment is also  dependent on which colleges to which you will apply.

“There are going to be a couple of differences in what you are learning in the classes, which is nothing really major, but there’s a couple of things some [honors or AP/college-level courses] may focus on than others,” said guidance counselor Ms. Goldblatt.

Goldblatt said that because the college courses here at M-W are affiliated with certain colleges, mostly SUNY schools, it could be difficult to transfer credits to a non-SUNY school, such as a private school.

When it comes to Advanced Placement, if you score a 4 or 5 on the exam, you have a broader window of opportunities in terms of what colleges will accept the credits. 

“That’s usually one of the biggest things that students do think about because if they are going out to private schools, sometimes, not always, but sometimes they’re going to find that all the classes that they take that are college level will not be accepted, vs the AP they have a better chance to be,” said Goldblatt. 

At the end of the day, it comes down to your judgment. It’s important to choose an option that is affordable and what you believe is the best for you. 

If you decide none of these options appeal to you, you can still take an AP course or dual enrollment course without signing up for the AP exam or registering through a college, though you will not receive any college credit for the class.