Dual Enrollment Bolsters College Success

Pam Sornson, JD

Pam Sornson, JD

Every potential college graduate should be preparing for the rigors of their college education while still in high school. Today’s high schools have the capacity to provide significant ‘college success’ benefits when the learner actively engages in discovering and exploring them. Unfortunately, too many of today’s high schoolers put off any inquiry into the college education process until they’re ready to register, so they lose valuable high school-based resources that could have eased their way to college success.


Poor Planning Causes Poor Results

Not enough parents or high school students recognize that early college success planning begins in high school, if not earlier. Without that advanced preparation, even the brightest high school graduates can stumble in their early college years.

Two-thirds of all ninth-graders will start either a two-or four-year college program but only 30% of those will attain their desired degree.

Only approximately one-third of all first-year college students have sufficient math and reading skills to avoid the necessity of taking a remedial class.

One-quarter of all beginning college students are required to take at least one non-credit remedial class.

And the academics are just part of the problem. Many entering college students find they aren’t prepared for the academic demands of their college courses, nor are they fully prepared to step away from their home-based support systems.

Half of the students recently polled by the College Board said that college courses were much more demanding than they anticipated and acknowledged that they could have worked harder in high school to prepare themselves better for their college experience.

Many were challenged by the time needed to study and prepare for each college course, sometimes up to five hours a week per course.

Time management skills were also noted as lacking; many new students struggled to get to class on time, follow through on assignments, and turn in projects when they were due.

Even cheating is more difficult in college. Students who admitted cheating in high school found they couldn’t match that activity in a college-oriented format.

Not least is the fact that many new college attendees aren’t emotionally ready to be totally self-driven in a college setting. Independence from family and friends also requires self-determination to manage life’s less glamorous details like laundry, scheduling, and even diet decisions. Considering the immense life changes that occur during the transition from high school to college, it’s not a surprise that so many young people stumble along the way.


Advanced Planning Improves the Likelihood of College Success

General Tips:

In addition to adding household responsibilities (kitchen contributions, managing their own laundry, etc.) to the high schooler’s day, strategizing college success also means talking to them about the choices they’ve made in high school and how those might inform their college trajectory.

In light of the data, it makes sense to ensure their reading, writing, and math skills are (or will be) college level at graduation. For some students, this process might start in middle school.

Their relative success in their current coursework is also a helpful indicator of college readiness. Those who are studious and work to achieve good grades have already developed skills that will help them succeed in their higher education processes.

Their choices for extracurricular activities might also be informative as to what they want to do in their career. Students who pursue an education in subjects and activities they inherently enjoy are more likely to succeed in both college and in their career.

Getting an early start on the college-prep strategy can also include searching for an appropriate school. Every college and university offers a unique constellation of courses and programs, and some are better suited for some students than others. However, success at any of them will be easier to attain when the student knows what those institutions expect from their students and the learner and can be ready to embrace those demands.

Consider Dual Enrollment:

California’s community colleges offer a ‘jump-start’ to the college experience by providing college-level coursework as part of the high school curriculum. ‘Dual enrollment‘ – being enrolled in high school and college simultaneously – provides students with the college-level academic experience they’ll eventually encounter while still in the safe setting of their high school.

Taking and completing combined high school/college courses offer significant benefits:

The students experience college-level expectations early, so they’re better prepared to meet those when they finally enter college as a freshman.

Students who complete these courses are also more likely to both enroll in and stay in college through to graduation.

Also, because the credits earned in dual enrollment classes count on both the high school and college transcripts, they reduce the cost of college and speed the time to college completion.

California’s most popular dual enrollment program, the College and Career Pathways program, facilitates a smooth transition from high school to a California Community college by allowing high school students to enroll in as many as four community college courses per term. The courses can build the foundation for the future career path of CTE study, contribute to transfer unit accumulation or help prepare the learner for college success.

By tying high school efforts to college success, California’s dual enrollment system gives high schoolers the tools they need to succeed in their higher education career while still engaged at the high school level.


The emerging, post-COVID economy requires thousands more trained workers than are currently available. California’s community colleges are prepared to develop their students into that workforce. They are engaging with the State’s public middle and high schools to ensure all students can gain the skills and abilities needed to succeed in those jobs. The dual enrollment opportunity

is just one option that paves a smooth path for learners through the college experience and into the career of their choice.






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