Do Colleges Prefer Dual Enrollment or AP Classes?

In determining admissions, colleges do not prefer dual enrollment over AP classes or vice versa. Rather, the admissions officers will look at course rigor. Why? Because not all schools offer dual enrollment or AP courses. Generally speaking, colleges will look at the rigor of the courses you have taken, the grades you received, and how you compare to the pool of applicants.

What Is the Difference Between Dual Enrollment and AP Classes?

Dual enrollment classes are college level courses that are taken in your high school and are on your official high school transcript. You pay for the college credits through your high school. Whether those college credits will be accepted or not will depend on the dual enrollment requirements of the college that you attend, such as the grade you received, the type of course, etc.

AP courses are Advanced Placement courses that are given through the College Board. Typically, in order to get college credit for AP courses, you need to achieve at least a 4 or 5 on the AP test, depending upon the school, and for some colleges and certain AP courses, a 3 may provide you college credit for the institution you eventually attend.

How Does a College Determine Rigor?

Not all students take AP or dual enrollment classes and that’s OK. It doesn’t mean that those students won’t get into college. On the contrary, there are colleges for everyone. But if you are looking to apply to a highly selective school, you need to understand that your competition in the applicant pool will probably have a lot of AP and/or dual enrollment courses on their transcript.

Because not all high schools offer all types of college level classes, colleges create a course hierarchy to help them make admissions decisions, which typically follows:

• International Bachelorette (IB) courses
• AP courses
• Dual enrollment courses
• High honors level courses
• Honors level courses
• Regular/standard courses

Based on experience, we would say that on a hierarchy level, AP courses are thought of as more rigorous than dual enrollment courses, and that dual enrollment courses are more rigorous than honors classes. Again, this can depend on the dual enrollment class and how rigorous it is relative to other courses that are offered at your school and the subject matter as well.

If a school does not offer dual enrollment, AP or IB courses, then the hierarchy would start with high honors or honors courses.


It’s not whether colleges prefer dual enrollment or AP courses. Rather, it’s a matter of what your high school offers in the way of higher level courses. There are plenty of colleges that will accept all different level students and students that take all different level courses. What’s important is that you take the classes that are best for you.

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