A Student Guide to Choosing AP or DE Classes


Photo by Ainsleigh Shipp

In the picture, sophomores Peyton Tarrant and Lindsay Bergman study for AP World History.

Written by Ainsleigh Shipp

Taking classes and getting college credit for them seems like something that’s only reserved for college students, but that isn’t true. With Dual Enrollment classes becoming more popular in the county, it plagues students with the question of which is better, Dual Enrollment or Advanced Placement, as both have pros and cons.

Dual Enrollment classes are college level classes offered in high school that amounts to college credits through Northern VA Community College. DE also includes a 1.0 bump in a student’s GPA. A common misperception is that Dual Enrollment credits do not transfer out of state, but NVCC’s website provides information about all in-state and out of state colleges that will accept the credits. Students with questions should seek advice from their guidance counselors and university admissions counselors to ensure that credits will transfer.

DE classes don’t require an exam at the end of the year like Advanced Placement classes do, but the testing to get into the classes is more rigorous. Some classes accept PSAT scores, but some require SAT scores or VPT (Virginia Placement Test) scores to be eligible for DE. For those requiring SAT scores, students need at least a 480 for the English test and 530 for Math. Using PSAT 10 scores, students need 390 EBRW (Evidence based reading and writing) for English and 500 for math. Once students have completed the DE coursework, those receiving a C will receive college credit.

Along with the testing to get into DE, high school students need to enroll in NVCC, and fill out an intent to enroll form. The intent to enroll form must include test scores and the courses the student will take.

Along the lines of enrolling in NOVA, DE resembles more of a college class.

“With Dual Enrollment, it replicates an actual college experience. I used to be an adjunct professor for Shenandoah University and also for Lord Fairfax College. I taught Freshman Composition and Freshman Literary Theory. That’s what I do for Dual Enrollment, so it equals what a college professor would teach,” says Former AP and DE English teacher Thomas Clawson.

To become a Dual Enrollment teacher, teachers have to have an in-subject Master’s degree, or they must take eighteen hours of credits in the certain field they want to teach. The time it takes to be a verified DE teacher varies.

“It took me two years because I was working. I would say a year is doable, but if you have a family and a job, it’s not so doable,” says McPhillips.
On the other hand, Advanced Placement classes do not require testing to allow students to take the course. AP classes have exams at the end of the year, usually in May, where students can score 1-5 on the test.

Advanced Placement classes are taught by teachers who do not have to follow the college curriculum but do have to have to follow a College Board AP curriculum and it has a 1.0 bump as well. At Woodgrove, the first AP classes students can take are AP World History and AP Biology, sophomore year for history and biology depending on when students took biology.

For students, it can be confusing as to which type of class to take, and when it comes to the pressure level of the class, it varies depending on the subject matter for both AP and DE.

“It’s really class specific. I always say not every AP is created equal,” says Guidance Counselor Barbara Bell. “AP Calculus BC is, just by its very nature, going to be more difficult than a lot of other AP classes and the same with Dual Enrollment.”

Balance is key when looking to take multiple AP and DE classes. AP Physics teacher Erin Barrett says, “We’re all trying to figure out this life and that’s just one aspect of it where students have to look at their time management. You’re only in high school once. It’s really important as a teacher to not judge how they manage it or mismanage it, but to try and have conversations about reflecting on what they’re choosing to do.”

Some students elect to take a mix of DE and AP while others stick to just one or the other. Sticking to only AP’s, Senior Rylan Pettit believes that the workload is more reasonable (in AP classes). With dual enrollment, the teachers have to follow the college curriculum.”

Peer advisement is important for all students when deciding what class to take. Senior Ahmirah Roberson, who has taken both, likes dual enrollment better and says, “With Dual Enrollment you have to work at your own pace and the teachers don’t give you assignments and say you have to do this. With AP, it’s more strict guidelines on what you have to do.”

Following along the same lines as Counselor Barbara Bell, DE U. S. History teacher Heidi McPhillips agrees that the difficulty relies on the perception of the student, the class itself, and the teacher.

“It’s somewhat dependent on each individual teacher more than what you’re taking because they are both at a post-high school expectation,” McPhillips says.
The curriculum and style of writing in AP and DE English classes are where the paths can branch off.

Clawson says, “AP Lang is a composition course, but your writing is all geared toward the three essays for the exam, so you’re limited as far as how much you can develop those essays. The writing in Dual Enrollment is closer to the kinds of papers you’ll write in college. They’re longer, you work on them for a longer period of time as well, and they’re more developed.”

Looking back on his high school experience, college junior and Woodgrove alumnus Rozlan Basha, a rising junior at JMU doesn’t prefer one over the other and enjoyed both types of classes.

“AP English prepared me extremely well to write college level papers, resumes, and emails. I was fortunate enough to get a 4 in AP Lang, which gave me credit for a freshman writing course otherwise required by JMU,” says Basha. He continues saying, “On the flip side of that, Dual Enrollment allowed me to fulfill multiple Gen Ed’s and gave me guaranteed credit all while being extremely fulfilling classes.”

While there are mixed reviews of both classes, it comes down to what the student decides what is best for them. Sophomore Kyra Chinemilly is looking forward to Dual Enrollment in the future more than AP.

“It’s going to be a lot of work, but it’ll pay off one day. I’m looking forward to taking them next year. I think DE will pay off more because it gives you more college credit than AP classes,” says Chinemilly.

When it boils down to taking Advanced Placement or Dual Enrollment, it matters most what the student wants to do. With different pros and cons on both sides, through discussion with peers, family, and staff members, students can decide on what the best path is for themselves.