College Catch 22: The Dangers and Difficulties of Dual Enrollment

Beware of over-committing. An enormous land-mine that can go off on your transcript if you dual enroll at a college and they you are highly engaged in a number of ensembles or performances at the performing arts high school if you are required to perform for your grade in a large enough number of different shows over the semester.

Dual Enrollment can be a wonderful thing: It provides the opportunities to take classes not offered at the high school level, take classes that allow your schedule at the high school to work better when an AP isn’t offered at time possible for you to take.

It gives you a taste of college in terms of the increased rigor, learning from a professor versus a teacher, and, sadly, the bureaucracy and hassle of institutional education where you are “self piloting.”

The High School/College Catch-22 Professor Problem

College professors are given a lot of control of their classroom environment. They set their own rules, many of which supercede their own department’s guidelines and policies.

That can be both good and bad. Some professors, for example, if you provide advance notice at the beginning of the semester, don’t have a problem with students who have to attend graded, mandatory performances at the performing arts magnet high school on a few nights. They let you make up the work in their class in other ways or attend another section at a different time of day that week.

Some professors, though, for any number of reasons including, but not limited to tough love, OCD, ego, and even a desire to show up the Dual Enrollment program, will make their courses JOB ONE without exception. There is no missing their course. For any reason. Period.

So, if you happen to have one of these teachers, and you have a required concert for the orchestra, or band, or jazz, and you need to miss their class, you will get a zero from them for it.  It will affect your grade. Likewise, the directors of your music area are going to be giving you a zero if you don’t show up for their mandatory concerts.

Everyone wants to be #1 in your education.

Students can get TERRIBLE grades for missing their college coursework, or deeply impact their music education and GPA at the performing arts high school.


The rules at some community and local colleges are multi-layered and, frequently, so complex that even their own admissions and guidance staff can’t always sort them out. We’ve found that it is rare that everyone working there has the same answer to issues.


Two students have a pre-requirement for General Chemistry: College algebra. One student goes to guidance counselor A and shows them that they’re taking Calculus and that they scored in the 99th percentile on the state algebra exam. The counselor waives the requirement.  The next semester, another student with the same profile speaks to a different counselor.  They end up being forced to take the class.

You should not expect consistent answers. 

The Buy One, Get One You May Not Want

Some courses are on a track like the AP English at the high school level.  If you take one, the college may tell you that you are required to take both.


Is Dual Enrollment Really Worth All This?

Dual Enrollment is often a factor in colleges’ rigor scoring, particularly at the more selective colleges out of state. Dual Enrollment is, even with its headaches, a net positive for the right kind of student.

The unique educational opportunity, where offered, provides students the ability to work around budget cuts in AP courses, language courses, and helps with students who want to pursue their art and run into block scheduling conflicts that can only be resolved by taking the extra course load out of school. Even with its warts, it is still far better than virtual school course offerings.

The lessons learned about surviving a college bureaucracy are no less important than what is learned in the classroom, as many students will attend large universities.  Learning how to leverage the system to get what you want is a life skill that is worth knowing.

So how does one play to win?

Beating the Game

Should you participate in Dual Enrollment: MAYBE.

If you plan to pursue something other than music as a career, yes.

If music is your primary direction, no.

If you are an overachiever, or you are a parent who believes that your student should be in AP everything, playing music, rowing crew, and building water systems in South America as community service in your spare time, probably not.  You cannot miss too many days of your college course(s).  Take off for three required high school concerts, swim team, basketball another, and you are likely to rightfully earn the wrath of any professor at at a dual enrollment college.

If you are a NO, you are done with this article.

If you are a YES or a PROBABLY NOT who is stubborn or still living in some level of denial, here is what you can do to beat the game:

Getting Enrolled

Allow yourself time for the process. It is not always smooth sailing. It may take one visit, or several, to get enrolled at PBSC.

The PERT – Most students wishing to enter Dual Enrollment have not taken the SAT or the ACT, so they can take the PERT.  It’s not a hard test, at least for most of our students who are recommended by Guidance to dual enroll, but there is paper-pushing in signing up for it that you cannot avoid.

The ID snafu: If you come to take the test, and you don’t have a valid driver’s license, you will have to have a U.S. passport or other government ID to get the college to administer the test.  Your STUDENT ID often will not serve as a valid government-issued ID for a college.

To take the PERT, you have to:

  1. Go to Admissions and get the paperwork that you need to provide the test center.
  2. Take the test. You need to take the test on a day where you have time. The last “seating” for the exam on most days is stated as 5:00p. but, for practical purposes, at some campuses testing shuts down 30 to 90 minutes before closing.
  3. After you’re done with the test, you will have to go back to Admissions to file the results, and get set up with a student account.


You submit your Dual Enrollment course paperwork that your high school guidance counselor provides to you AFTER a student ID number has been established.  Once you submit the form to get a student ID, there can be a 24 hour waiting period before you can go online and enroll in classes.

Once you get access to the enrollment system, you need to ask: Who are the professors to choose when enrolling?  Picking the right professor is VERY critical to your success or failure in Dual Enrollment because you MUST avoid being put into the Catch-22.

Be Choosy About Professors

Once you can get on Pantherweb and enroll, you will have to select courses from the catalog. There are limited section times that meet on nights and weekends.

• Do not pick a course because of a convenient location/time.

• DO NOT choose a course where the professor is TBA, if you have other choices, because that is a wildcard in the process that you don’t want. 

• ASK FRIENDS in the program already.  If they have had a good experience, hopefully you will as well.

•, can be a good research resource to find out how that professor teaches.

Avoid Concert Conflicts When You Enroll

Look at your concert calendar before you start picking courses. Pick days for your classes, where possible, with the fewest number of conflicts between the college and high school schedules.

Prerequisites for Courses

Usually your Guidance Department knows the prerequisites, but there are times that surprises pop up about what is waived and what is required. If you get to the college to enroll in a course, and find out that additional coursework is required to take the class for which you intended to register, ask to see the notation on the catalog, and ask if there is any allowable waiver.

Read the waiver pages carefully as they can be a bit complex.

If it is not written down, on their website or a form or circular of the college, it’s not a policy. How it is handled is then left up to the people in admissions or guidance.

Your first point of contact then is the Dual Enrollment Coordinator for your college campus. Ask them what to do. If you get back to Admissions and their advice is not accepted to help you solve your problem, email your guidance counselor or your Dual Enrollment Coordinator, and ask them to help you resolve the issue. Speak with your Guidance counselor BEFORE you make any further decisions.

First Day of Classes – Enrollment Make or Break

On your first day, even if you have heard wonderful things about the professor, you still need to find out some information that will determine whether you keep or drop the class.

  • Provide the professor with ADVANCE NOTICE, in writing, at the beginning of the semester, of your schedule of required concerts. If they are NOT good with your schedule conflicts, drop the course with that professor and see your guidance counselor immediately about picking up an alternative course at the college or high school level. Do not wait until the concert is coming up.
  • Check the syllabus or other rubrics for the course to see what is the absence policy. If there is a zero tolerance policy for missed classes, drop that professor’s course IMMEDIATELY.  See your high school guidance counselor ASAP to re-enroll in another section or another course.
  • Be VERY CLEAR with the professor about what the terms of the “contract” are with them for their class. Best to contact them by EMAIL after the first class.If you do it in writing, you are more apt to get an accurate answer because school email is part of career records. They are less apt to engage in semantics games with you. Verbally, we had one professor tell a student that it was “Ok,” if they missed class for required work at the performing arts high school;  They didn’t need to make up any of the missed classes. The student took that to mean that it was not a problem. The professor, though, was simply referring to the zero-tolerance policy for missed classes, and that there was NOTHING you could do to fix that.
  • Writing forces clarity. Schedule issues should always be dealt with in writing.  It also helps your parents and guidance counselors to help you with the nuances of communication with the professors.
  • If you are allowed to take off for your required school performances, then throughout the semester, REMIND the professor by email the week prior to when you are obligated to be at a graded concert program. It is polite and good form.
  • Do not try to use graded concerts as an excuse to get out of class for other non-academic reasons. It is not only easily found out, but, guaranteed, it will make it harder for other students that follow you to gain the trust of that professor, the department, or the college as a whole.

Network, Network, Network

We have asked the Guidance Department to perhaps host a coffee or other social evening where new and current Dual Enrollment families can get together and share information.  If not, parents and students should both be networking to learn as much as you can about the good professors at the school.

Course Conflicts

Even when you try, though, to avoid conflicts, they can come up. Unfortunately, you are ALWAYS at the mercy of the professors. If they told you up front that they will not penalize you, that generally is good enough BUT there may be times where you are presented with no choice, AND, unfortunately, the School District and the college currently allow the Catch-22 where a student has to pick which course they have to take a 0 in for that day.

If a college final exam is in conflict with a concert, you have to take the F for the concert if you cannot make alternate arrangements with the college professor. Notify your guidance counselor of the conflict so they can help you at least notate your file as to why your grade in your art was impacted;

If it is a science or other lab, you can ask if you can take a makeup with one of the other sections of the lab, but do so at the beginning of the semester.  In many cases, you WILL NOT be able to make up labs.  This is where not overloading your schedule can be your salvation. If you only miss one or two labs by picking a day with few concerts, then the impact on your overall grade probably won’t be severe. If you have three, four or more conflicts, though, the damage to your grade by missing that many classes would be too significant and you can be assured your grade will suffer.

If you are allowed to make up a missed day, in any way, FOLLOW THROUGH. If you don’t, you not only can mess yourself up with that professor, but you can negatively impact every other Dual Enrollment student that comes behind you to that class.

Final Value Taken from Dual Enrollment

The rigor, and that you pushed yourself, are of value to all colleges. Credits? Not so much so, at least from a community college. If you plan to go to a public university, they will take the dual enrollment credits from a community college at a reduced value.  Out of state and private schools generally will not accept the community college credits, BUT they do count it in the admissions department towards their scoring of your academic rigor.

For more information on how the College Catch-22 situation evolves, stay tuned…