Teachers College, Columbia University

Learning About the Role of College Student Through Dual Enrollment Participation

By Melinda Mechur Karp

Dual enrollment programs, in which high school students take college courses for credit, have become a popular educational intervention. This paper seeks a rationale for this enthusiasm by exploring whether dual enrollment might help students gain clarity about the role of college student. Sociological theories of role change posit that if this is the case, dual enrollment might encourage postsecondary persistence.

In this study, the authors conducted interviews and observations among a sample of 26 students in their first semester of a dual enrollment course. Seventeen of the 26 high school students shifted their conceptions of the role of college student during their first semester and developed more accurate descriptions of the role by the end of the course. Changes in participants’ role conceptions and identities were encouraged by anticipatory socialization, role rehearsal, trial-and-error, and interpretation of individual experiences.

The paper concludes with implications for programs and policy.