#105 Navigating Choices between AP or Dual Enrollment with Julie Spak Transcript


Lisa Marker Robbins 01:05

For many teens, the midpoint in the school year has them choosing the classes for next year and making decisions that can shape their academic future. Choosing between AP advanced placement courses, and dual enrollment is one of those. These options are like two roads diverging in a high school hallway, and picking the right path can feel overwhelming. That’s why we’ve brought an expert to help us get in the right direction. Julie SPAC is a seasoned independent educational consultant, with a wealth of knowledge and lots of experience helping students navigate these crucial choices. As parents, we all want what’s best for our kids, especially when setting them up for success in college and beyond. Today, Julie will help us understand the nuts and bolts of AP courses, and dual enrollment. We’ll explore each choices, advantages, challenges and long term impacts. Whether your team is a budding scientist in aspiring artists or still figuring it all out. This episode is packed with insights to help you support them on their academic journey. I’m Lisa Mark Robbins, and I want to welcome you to College and Career Clarity in flourish coaching production. Let’s dive right in to a great conversation.

Lisa Marker Robbins 02:28

Julie, welcome back to the show.

Julie Spak 02:31

Thank you, Lisa, it is always a pleasure. Thanks for having me.

Lisa Marker Robbins 02:36

We should say we had you on last year, on a similarly related topic that I think people are gonna want to go back and listen to that one too. But we’re gonna do a deeper dive today. So last year, you were on episode number 54, high school course selection tips with Julie’s back where we kind of looked at, you know, courses as a whole, but I think we both walked away from that conversation going, you know, what one topic or actually a couple topics that probably need a more of a deeper dive is people get into real quandary. Like, should they take advanced placement AP courses, or dual enrollment D courses? And so we’re gonna get people some information, so they’re making wise decisions as they go into college, or a high school course election on their college bound journey?

Julie Spak 03:29

Absolutely. I think it’s super important. And this is the time of year, as you know, I think you’re doing a great service for everybody to really think about what classes you’re going to take it is absolutely, incredibly important. And what I would say, especially now with any high school courses, but our topic today, AP versus dual enrollment, is to know what your goals are. So we use that phrase, Lisa, right, begin with the end in mind. But when we talk about goals this way, is for a family and a student is your goal to save money on college is your goal to finish college faster? Is your goal to have more room in your schedule. So you can take more classes while you’re in college, maybe a double major or minor making room to go on study abroad, things of that nature? Or is your goal to learn, you know, to be to learn more things while you’re in high school because that is a great goal. And that can be part of it as well. So what I would say is, I want to I want to interrupt

Lisa Marker Robbins 04:41

you for one sec. So you just referenced and I forgot to say you are one of our coaches in our launch Career Clarity, college major and career course. And so when you said you know, we’re always preaching the two of us begin with the end in mind. We’re taught Think about make those choices make the choice of the College of the major, thank you go ahead to when I’m outside of college, what do I want to be doing? So in this case, I like how you’re engineering that we’re like, okay, we’re going to put a twist on begin with the end in mind, I’m going to say, when I’m in college, are these core selection choices that I have? Going to help me do one of them? That was a great menu of options that you just gave us? And so how do i That’s my end goal, like what is my end goal while I’m in college, and therefore, what choices make the most sense? So I wanted to be sure everybody knew you are part of my team, you’re part of yours coaching, we’ve been together for more than a decade. Just crazy. We love happy to gather. So as we think about that, before we dive into, you know, those, that nice pathway that you gave us kind of a checklist for us. Let’s get AP and dual enrollment. defined. Yeah. Because you and I are so close to it. Sometimes we forget that maybe our Lister doesn’t know.

Julie Spak 06:10

Yeah, well, advanced placement, AP schools that have that, you know, the College Board, owns and runs the program. And it’s about advanced placement, it’s about equity and access and giving students opportunities to take a college level course, in high school with one of the teachers the to the teachers of their high school will be the one teaching the class. So it’s a predetermined curriculum, it’s been approved, it has a set, it’s an apples to apples experience. First, you

Lisa Marker Robbins 06:45

matter where you are going, no matter where you are, if you’re in Philadelphia, I’m in Cincinnati. So if you’re taking AP Chem, the college knows that, hey, these kids did the same curriculum and took the same test in scored so we can compare them apples to apples, apples to apples. So that is actually one of the things that the college is like, right? They love it. They love

Julie Spak 07:09

it for that. And most high school guidance counselors, and college counselors will agree that it’s the easiest thing to be defined, you know that you’re able to see it. Any of you and I encourage all of you, and one of our best tips ever, is to look at your school of records, curriculum guide, download it, read it all about AP, you’ll see the list every school you can find out, Lisa and I you and I can Google any school in the country and probably pull up with the AP offerings that they have. Yeah, I

Lisa Marker Robbins 07:41

mean, I think we’d need to really point out like your high school may not have the same list of available advanced placement courses as another high school. Some high schools don’t have any, some have just a few. Some have. I don’t know anybody that has all of them. But there maybe

Julie Spak 08:01

one of our listeners can challenge us and let us know if someone does. Yeah, really,

Lisa Marker Robbins 08:05

there’s more than a, there’s more than two dozen possible courses. And I’ve been adding to the list. So I hate to bring the number because by the time somebody listens to this, there could be another announcement of an AP course. AP pre calc was new

Julie Spak 08:19

today. Yeah, this year, we’ve got our a new one going on right now.

Lisa Marker Robbins 08:22

Exactly. So okay, so advanced placement, it’s standardized. Nationally, there was a test at the end, we should probably talk about that.

Julie Spak 08:32

Yes, good students need to they it’s something that you have to pay for. And they’re scored from one to five. And in the easiest way to describe it. There are exceptions. And this is why knowing the rules and what colleges want. And what your schools offer is the test scores are given either a one a two, a three, a four, or a five. And you obviously fours and fives are the most coveted numbers that you want to be receiving, because that assures the college that you have passed the class and can do college level work. So

Lisa Marker Robbins 09:08

interesting, I want to say something about those fours and fives. I have seen kids do not get like straight A’s in their class, on their report card affecting their GPA, although that’s a weighted, you know, give them a weight on that, but still get a four or five on the test. And so because there’s different teachers, different quality of teachers from school to school, so that’s why that it’s really not your grade in the class, which yes, it will affect your GPA. But the score on the test that’s going to show if you’ve mastered college level work in that subject area.

Julie Spak 09:43

That’s right. And so right now you can look at it, you know, colleges will let you know what they will accept. So you can look at a school like for example, I’m going to use Lehigh. I’m in Pennsylvania. I’m using that school because it is selective school. But let’s say your student is taking AP Calc, they are not going to give you credit for it unless you have five at Lehigh. And they will give you the credits for one class, but you still have to take if you’re going to go into engineering, you still have to take the class when you get there. Now, other schools, let’s say you take you, you know, you take AP Lit, pe literature, schools may take anywhere from a three, four or five, and you test out of you get credits toward your English or your general education requirements. So this is where knowing, you know, beginning with the end in mind, what your schools of interest are looking for. Now, one of the things I think we should say, Lisa, is that the highest level or AP, excuse me, Ivy League schools, there are a select group of schools that do not take advanced placement, nor do they take dual enrollment credits. And I just want to say for the record, I think families need to know this. Because when you look at those schools, they will have a disclaimer that says, we feel that this is preparation for our programs. So it’s not good or bad. It’s not right or wrong. It’s just being in the driver’s seat. Yeah, I

Lisa Marker Robbins 11:12

think, you know, this goes back to I always am preaching be a good consumer. And yes, it is about the money. But it’s just being wise. It’s about asking the questions, doing your homework, not waiting until that summer, going into senior year or fall to senior year to finalize that college list. Because if you’re doing a really good job of it, you’re asking the right questions, and you’re going to know, oh, this group of colleges, you know, they’re generous, maybe or they this group over here admits by major, this group of colleges on my list are very generous with the AP and dual enrollment credit, which might save me money or time in college. So I know we’re talking about AP versus dual enrollment. But I think what you just said is another piece of the puzzle of driving home being prepared, being smart, taking the time to learn about the colleges and their policies. Yeah, it does make me think of we’ve got a college list building tutorial available. And it’s just it’s for short videos, for worksheets to help parents guide them and figuring these type of things out. If people want that, I’ll put it in the show notes. But it’s at flourish coaching co.com, forward slash list. And it’s a tutorial on how to build a good college list. So okay, so that’s great information about AP. Let’s talk about dual enrollment. So also, it’s for students who are ready for college level work, but I’ll let you lead with how it’s a little bit different.

Julie Spak 12:51

So dual enrollment, I think what our listeners should know is that each state runs their own dual, like most states will have a dual enrollment faction or an information on that. But dual enrollment is taking a college level course and for most of our, you know, students in high school, they will be taking the course at their high school, again, sanctioned by the college. However, there are also times that a student could go physically to a local school if it’s close by, I have that you know, a lot of students in my town in you know, suburban Philadelphia, where they can attend on campus. So some students will get the opportunity to see what it’s like to be on a college campus and take an entry level course, which is fantastic. And then the third level, which is slightly rarer, is doing them online and getting credit but the key. Lisa, as you know is knowing what your school district offers sanction, and has available to you. So looking on the website into find out what’s available. And my school district just started a brand new one with Temple University, which is Philadelphia is about 30 miles away from us. They are actually offering a dual enrollment this year, a brand new that I would not have known unless I read about it. And also, one of my neighbors told me about it as well. So I looked it up is a temple professor will be driving to Downingtown, Pennsylvania to deliver a class on sports management. Wow, his amazing many, many people want to learn about this career, and they may or may not know exactly what it means. So they’re doing this dual thing and then if somebody applies to temple and enrolls in temple, they will already be on their way. So just knowing the courses, the credits, what’s accepted, that’s all super, super important.

Lisa Marker Robbins 14:55

So going back to that example, I want to make sure our listeners now that’s fair. very rare, most colleges are not sending a professor to your campus. But what they’re instead doing is they’re typically training one of your classroom teachers from your high school that has a master’s degree in their area in their content area, and then giving them the curriculum, so that they can deliver what the students would get on the college campus, but just during their high school days. So that’s, I just wanted to say that’s a super rare one, you know, my son, who’s now 25. So this was a long time ago, when he was in high school, he got the University of Cincinnati, had some engineering classes there, their first two engineering general engineering courses. In high school, one of his high school math teachers was certified to teach that. So he was earning credit from the University of Cincinnati, and got his high school credit. So that’s what the dual in dual enrollment means is, you’re getting both your high school credit and your college credit. And it was interesting, he ultimately did not attend Cincinnati, it was one of his final schools that he was interested in. But he went to another state flagship out of state. And they accepted one of those two classes for credit. So it got him out of one class, his freshman year, one of his engineering courses. However, had he gone to Cincinnati or any other Ohio public university, it would have gotten him out of two classes, right? So it doesn’t always mean like you’re saying Do your homework, because it’s yes, just because you take the class doesn’t mean it’s going to be accepted at every college that you apply to.

Julie Spak 16:42

Right. So let’s talk about Lisa, the dual enrollment, how colleges look at that. So they are thrilled. And I think it’s wonderful that you’ve had this experience, you have more confidence you’re coming in. However, they can’t always discern the rigor of each individual class. Now, that being said, sometimes when you mentioned University of Cincinnati, or we have temporal or wherever the courses are, sometimes state flagships who get to know certain high schools and see patterns, the admissions, people might know more details about what the students are doing. But this is why you have to think about where you’re applying and the choices that you’re making, and why you’re choosing to do what you’re doing. Because I get that question. I’m sure you do all the time. Should I take AP? Or should I do the dual enrollment English? What do you think? And so I always want to say, where are you applying to college? You know, what is your list look like? Where do you think you’re going to be going? And also the cost? I wanted to throw in there that APS have a standard cost, whereas dual enrollment can vary. I will say that it’s in general, between 105 100 per class, if we had to put a generalized number on

Lisa Marker Robbins 17:57

it. And in some states being here in Ohio, it’s free, which is wonderful. And Ohio, I wish they would do this, they confuse it because they call it College Credit Plus, yes. Since really just for my Ohio listeners is I know, same thing for dual enrollment, right, for sure. So there is, you know, this brings up is interesting. So you’ve got, you know, the dual enrollment, the advanced placement and Advanced Placement being standardized. I had a previous guest on and it was episode 18. How to get freshman year for free. And this is with modern states. And David Weiss was telling us how through the CLEP exam, yes, you actually can also earn college credit and modern states pays for students to take the CLEP exam. I’m gonna drop it in the show notes. Because one of the strategies he talked about to further to your point, if you’re trying to get like, through school faster, like oh, I want to graduate in three and a half years. You want in part of that strategy is because you just want to save money on school. Then, as you think about that, let’s try to get always so we could get the credit. So David’s program says we’ll pay for you to take the CLEP exam. And then you know, take it right after you take your AP exam, take it right after you finish your dual enrollment course or just use our program to prep and it doesn’t even have to accompany something that you’re doing in the classroom because these are all ways of getting college credit while you’re still in high school.

Julie Spak 19:41

Exactly. And that’s that’s such the key is knowing what’s expected and what’s available both at your high school level you know where you’re attending your secondary school and then knowing what is accepted at your post secondary your College. And when you have all those pieces I can’t emphasize it enough is to know what what is available to you and the choices you make and admissions. And when I worked as an admissions officer at the University of New Hampshire, when we read students applications, it’s what did this student do with the opportunities that were available to them? That is the question in their mind. And they have the school profile, they can see what’s available. And when they read your student’s transcript, they are always thinking what was available, what choices did they make? And why have they done what they have done? And we’re becoming clear on that. Yeah, makes huge difference. Well, that’s

Lisa Marker Robbins 20:40

reassuring for any listener who goes, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, my school district only offers four AP classes. And I hear about kids who took sixth, seventh or eighth while they were still in high school, and that colleges love that you’re not penalized for not taking an AP class that your school doesn’t offer. And I might add, you know, students have the option of taking the AP exam, without having taken having taken the AP class. So you could self study, you could do the modern states program. So you can go take that exam at a different high school, maybe that’s offering it ask in your area, who maybe has an opportunity for that. And gosh, maybe you self studied and you were really intellectually curious. And you were taking the right action, and you scored a four on AP US History, then that looks fantastic that colleges go like wow, go get them like, you’re you’re working extra hard. And you didn’t have to do it. And you showed that you had mastered the curriculum, even though you didn’t take the class.

Julie Spak 21:55

Right. And also, you reminded me of one other thing is sometimes, and some of this will happen for some of our listeners, sometimes you can do AP and dual enrollment. I don’t think I’ll just say for the record, I’m happy to put this on the record is it causes don’t expect you to take every single AP class there, you know, if you choose maybe a dual enrollment that like let’s say, you live in Downingtown, Pennsylvania with me, and you take the sports management temple dual enrollment, but yet you still take your AP Calc, that is a great example of somebody who’s mixing and matching to their benefit. And

Lisa Marker Robbins 22:36

I would say to their ability colleges also didn’t expect that you’re going to take AP and dual enrollment in every subject area, even if you’re capable. That workload is probably too heavy for most students to handle. You know, this is something Megan Rose and I talked about on episode 69. The ins and out of AP courses. Yeah, that we had, I think we dropped that like last May. But it’s episode 69. We’ll put it in the show notes. But the xpect don’t overdo it. Right? Do what fits, you might be taking a college prep class and social studies, and AP class and science. And that dual enrollment, fantastic elective opportunity or something like that, Julie, that you just mentioned, round it out in what fits for your student. And, you know, I’m also gonna say like, don’t be afraid to try. Right? Don’t

Julie Spak 23:34

be afraid to try. Don’t be afraid to explore that. I think at the base level for APS and dual enrollment, it’s about exploration. These are the areas that our students can really explore their interests more particularly their academic interests.

Lisa Marker Robbins 23:52

Well, you know, this is one of the ways that we teach in the course, we teach six different types of curated experiences, that aids students in figuring out what their future college major and career path should be. And this is this is a way to do that. So this has been fantastic. Julie, thanks for coming on. Again.

Julie Spak 24:15

You My pleasure.

Lisa Marker Robbins 24:16

Having you back. We talk every single week you are active inside our course helping our students. Keep doing the great work, Julie.

Julie Spak 24:28

Thank you. It’s always a pleasure. And I hope everyone takes advantage of all this great info

Lisa Marker Robbins 24:39

thank you to Julie Spak for sharing her insights and helping us navigate the choices between AP courses and dual enrollment. Because you’re not leaving here with one answer and this is not a one size fits all. You aren’t going to be able to make a final decision. But we’ve got an important college bound challenge Grab your team’s high school course catalog and sit down with your team to go over it. This can be found on your school website, typically year round. So, dive into the options that are available for next year. And maybe even be thinking about the year beyond that and discuss what courses might be the best fit. Consider your team’s interests, their future college major goals, and workload balance. It’s a great opportunity to bond and plan for their future. Parents. Remember, these decisions play a big role in your team’s academic journey. Your support and involvement are key. This is one that we don’t want to just leave to them. So thanks for tuning in. Remember to follow us for more insights and tips on getting your college bound teen to both College and Career Clarity.