General Education

AP, DC, DE, IB: An A–Z Guide to College Credit in High School

AP, DC, DE, IB: An A–Z Guide to College Credit in High School
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Bretton M. DeLaria profile
Bretton M. DeLaria June 8, 2015

Want to get a head start on uni? Noodle Expert Bretton DeLaria shares the biggest pros and cons of 4 common college-credit programs available to high schoolers.

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For some students, college doesn’t start when they set foot on campus. It starts in the halls of high school.

There are lots of different programs for students eager to get started with college work — Advanced Placement (AP), dual credit (DC), dual enrollment (DE), and International Baccalaureate (IB). Whether you are selecting among several programs offered at your school, or there is only college-credit option in your area, understanding what each program can offer will help you thrive in your academic setting.

Read on for an overview of these college-credit programs — and for the the benefits and drawbacks associated with each.

Advanced Placement (AP)

The Advanced Placment program dates back to the early 1950s, with a small pilot program in 11 courses. The College Board took control of the program in 1955, overseeing a set of regulated college-level classes in various subjects that allow students the opportunity to gain college credit depending on the score they receive on a given subject’s standardized exam — and on where they attend college. Under the guidance of Trevor Packer, who has led this program since 2003, the program has expanded to a greater number and range of schools across the U.S.

# Benefits

  • You can take coursework that fulfills high school requirements.
  • You may be able to use test scores to attain college credit or fulfill introductory college courses.
  • AP tests cost less than traditional undergraduate tuition rates.
  • You can take an AP test for credit even without having taken the corresponding course.

# Challenges

  • Even if you take an AP course and/or do well on an exam, there is no guarantee that you will receive college credit.
  • College credit is shown through high school transcripts or test reports, as opposed to being included on a university transcript.

_Read this article The Benefit of AP Classes Beyond the Test for an argument why you should consider this option._

Dual Credit (DC) or Concurrent Enrollment (CE)

Dual credit, also referred to as concurrent enrollment, has been around since as early as 1959 at Saint Louis University. Dual credit is now offered by a variety of national, local, and community colleges.

Dual credit, at its core, is defined as an opportunity for high school students to take college-level courses taught by college-approved high school instructors for a reduced tuition rate at their schools. The course credit counts toward the student’s university transcript and toward fulfilling high school course requirements.

# Benefits

  • You can take college-level coursework that still fulfills high school requirements.
  • Credit is guaranteed to be transferable at a partner university and is sometimes nationally transferable to other colleges/universities.
  • Students, instructors, and schools have a connection and access to a public/private university resources including speakers, research, faculty, and libraries.
  • Student credit is not contingent on an exam; instead, it is given by completing comprehensive work for the class, which the instructor has developed with university faculty assistance.
  • DC instructors hold higher education degrees/coursework in subject field.
  • DC courses provide college credit at a fraction of the cost of college tuition.

# Challenges

  • Each university has its own credit transfer policy. You’ll need to check with the universities you are interested in to learn if and how the credit will count.

Dual Enrollment (DE)

Dual enrollment allows students to take for-credit courses that supplement the high school curriculum on the campus of a university or college. Dual enrollment classes are taught by university faculty members and draw a mixture of high school and undergraduate students.

Dual enrollment has existed for many years and is a tried-and-tested way for high school students to gain college credit.

# Benefits

  • You’ll be guaranteed college credit by at least the host university.
  • The college credit earned appears on a university transcript that may be accepted by other universities.
  • You’ll have access to the college/university campus and resources.
  • You’ll get to take courses at college campuses with university faculty.

# Challenges

  • The timing of courses may not work for all students who are interested.
  • You’ll be in a new atmosphere that can create additional stress or anxiety at a time when you are already being challenged by a more rigorous curriculum.
  • Transportation to the college campus can be a barrier.
  • The tuition rate may not be as competitive compared to other alternative college credit options.
  • College course will need to be approved by high school and may not fulfill school requirements.

International Baccalaureate (IB)

The International Baccalaureate program was started in 1968 to offer international education programs that would challenge students to expand their worldview through rigorous programming.

International Baccalaureate consists of curricula developed by the IB organization and taught by certified schools. While IB has multiple programs, typically three of the programs are considered to be higher-level and equivalent to college work. Students ultimately take a standardized test that can potentially fulfill college course requirements, depending on the the score earned.

# Benefits

  • You can take coursework that fulfills high school requirements.
  • You’ll have the opportunity to receive college credit or fulfill introductory college course requirements.
  • You’ll have access to a rigorous curriculum.
  • You’ll gain a global perspective in the program.

# Challenges

  • Even if you achieve a high score on the IB exam, there is no guarantee that you will receive college credit.
  • College credit is shown through high school transcripts or test reports and is not included on university transcripts.

_For further guidance, check out this article on how to decide whether to take IB or AP courses._

My advice to students is this: Always get credit however and wherever you can. While these programs vary in structure and approach, at the end of the day, they are all great ways for you to earn college credit before you matriculate.


About the IB. Retrieved June 3, 2015, from The International Baccalaureate Programme

What is Concurrent Enrollment? Retrieved June 3, 2015, from The National Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships


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