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  • Yes, you can go to two colleges at once. This is called dual enrollment.
  • Dual enrollment can help you save money and allow for schedule and course flexibility, all while still enjoying the benefits of a four-year college experience.
  • Attending two schools requires smart and careful planning.

If you can’t decide between two schools, you might wonder: Can you attend two colleges at once? The surprising answer is yes, you can enroll in two schools at the same time. Here’s how to do it, as well as when it makes sense.

What is dual enrollment?

You may have heard the term dual enrollment in reference to high school students taking classes at a local college. However, the term can also refer to students attending two colleges at once. Often, students simultaneously take classes at a community college and a four-year university, but they can also choose to take classes at two four-year universities.

How does dual enrollment work?

Also known as co-enrollment or simultaneous, cross, or concurrent enrollment, students who study under this arrangement still choose one four-year school as their home (degree-granting) college. Any credits students earn elsewhere are transferred over to their main school to count toward graduation requirements (more on transferring credits, and related obstacles, below).

Benefits of dual enrollment

It does take a bit of careful strategizing to make sure you handle dual enrollment correctly. Still, after you do your homework on this approach, there are a number of very good reasons to consider it. By choosing concurrent enrollment you may:

  • Save money. Taking some of your classes at a less expensive community college rather than all of them at your four-year university may help you pay less for your college degree.
  • Give yourself more schedule flexibility. What if two of your required classes at your main school meet at the same time? You may be able to take one of them at a community college or different university instead—either in person or online.
  • Expand your course options. You can choose from course catalogs at two schools instead of just one. If your school offers limited choices in an academic area of interest outside your major or concentration, this can be a way to broaden your choices, but you should double-check if these credits will transfer. Or if you want to take a class that commonly fills up at your university, you can take it somewhere else instead.
  • Get the four-year college experience. If you're trying to cut costs by taking community college classes, but you want to start at a four-year school, concurrent enrollment may solve your problem. You can take classes at both schools while formally attending your four-year university, rather than first enrolling at a community college and then transferring.
  • Earn double benefits. You may be allowed to take advantage of student activities, facilities, and more at both schools.

Agreements between schools

A number of colleges actively promote programs that expand students' opportunities to take courses at multiple schools. For example:

  • The University of Oregon (UO) in Eugene, offers an active dual enrollment program. Students can take classes at UO as well as at one of two partnering community colleges and can live in UO's dorms, just like other full-time students.
  • Wellesley College in Wellesley, Massachusetts, lets its students cross-register for classes at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Babson College, Brandeis University, and several other schools.
  • Located in the same Indiana town, Notre Dame University and St. Mary's College both allow students to cross-register for classes with faculty advisers' approval. The two schools even share student groups and community service projects.
  • The State University of New York (SUNY) system lets students earn credits at SUNY campuses other than their own (i.e., home) school.

If this is a feature that intrigues you, ask about it when you apply for admission.

What to know before you dual-enroll

If you're considering concurrent enrollment, here are some important things to keep in mind:

  • Understand the rules. Before enrolling in courses at two colleges you should always consult with your main school's admissions or registrar's office or your academic adviser. They will help you fully understand how your school's concurrent enrollment arrangement works. You should also make sure you understand what your costs will be at each campus.
  • Plan which courses to take where. Your primary four-year university may require you to take certain classes, including upper-level courses and those directly related to your major, at their campus only. As such, you will probably want to take only intro-level classes and electives at other schools.
  • Ask how financial aid will work. Your schools' registrar and financial aid staff members can help with these questions. This is important because loans and scholarships can only be applied to your tuition and fees at one school at a time. However, you may be able to set up a consortium agreement between your two schools, which allows financial aid to be disbursed first to your degree-granting college and then to your secondary college.
  • Read the fine print. There are a lot of good reasons to take classes at a second school. However, if you're trying to boost your grades by taking easier classes at a community college, you may want to reconsider. Some four-year schools will transfer your credits, but not your grades, from community colleges. This means transferred credits won't improve your overall or in-major GPA.
  • Double-check course transfers. Just knowing that credits from one school to another isn't enough. You also need to understand how classes satisfy degree requirements at your home school. For instance, does a specific course qualify as a history or social sciences credit? This information can help you avoid taking extra classes not required for your degree.

With some smart planning, taking classes at two colleges at the same time can end up being a cost-effective and creative way to earn your college degree.

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