When considering higher education, you have options. Some might include applying to a four-year college or considering community college. Everyone’s path is different, just know that you can chart your own course.
If you’re wondering, “Should I go to community college?”, let’s take a look at some important factors to think about first.
What is Community College?
Community colleges typically offer two-year degrees known as an associate’s degree. Students often attend community colleges for two years before transferring to a four-year university to gain their bachelor’s degree.
Working with a counselor can help you solidify your academic goals and work towards them, from choosing a major to earning the right credits that can be transferred to your bachelor’s degree.
This can be an exciting time in your life but also an overwhelming one. Let’s break down some of the thoughts that might be going through your head as you decide what step to take next.
Pros and Cons of Community College
Attending community college can have some upsides, but like anything, it may not be the right option for everyone. Just remember — your own experience is going to be unique and what might be best for you might not be the same case for your classmates or friends. No need to feel pressured by what might be the “right” or “wrong” path.
Read on for more pros and cons of community college.
Pros of Going to Community College
Some benefits of attending a community college include affordability, increased flexibility in classes, and the opportunity to stay local.
Because community college can be more inexpensive than their four-year counterparts, attending a community college before a university could help you cut tuition costs significantly. According to the College Board’s 2021 Trends in College Pricing Report , the average cost of tuition at a two-year college was $3,800 as compared to $10,740 at a four-year public institution with in-state tuition.
Students attending community college may also be able to live at home, which can cut down on living expenses too. Living at home while taking community college classes can also offer you some transitionary time to get accustomed to a new schedule and new academic expectations before committing to a four-year university.
It’s also relatively easy to gain admission into community college. Some community colleges even have open admission policies , which generally means that there are limited academic requirements needed for admission, so most students who apply are accepted. Note that even if a community college has an open admission policy, certain more competitive programs, like a nursing program, might have more stringent academic requirements.
Another major benefit of community college is that students have the opportunity to explore a variety of academic interests before committing to a major at a four-year university.
In addition, community colleges can offer you the chance to experience smaller class sizes (instead of large lecture hall classes that can be common at universities).
Cons of Going to Community College
While community college can offer the opportunity to explore courses, the academic offerings may be more limited at a community college than at a four-year institution. Consider finding out which classes are available at each community college you are interested in so you can make sure they have exactly what you need. Not all community colleges might include the classes you are interested in taking.
Generally, community colleges are limited to associate degrees, so if you are interested in obtaining a Bachelor’s you’ll need to transfer to another institution. It can be helpful to talk to a counselor at the community college about what classes you might choose so that you don’t end up earning too many credits that can’t be transferred.
Research the minimum requirements for transferring to each university that you want to apply to (or for each system, such as the University of California system). You can also talk to your guidance counselor about the articulation agreements their community college might have with universities near you to get a better sense of what credits will transfer.
Another potential downside to attending community college is less academic, but students may miss out on some of the social benefits of attending a four-year college, including friendships, extracurriculars, and enjoying campus-life. While you can experience all of these things if you transfer, it can be challenging to make friends as a transfer student.
Choosing Which College to Go To
If you know for sure that you want to attend community college, now it’s time to see what options are available near you. According to The Princeton Review , 90% of the U.S. population is within commuting distance of a community college.
Due to one life situation or another, many students attend colleges as commuter students, trading a fully on-campus experience for greater flexibility. As a commuter student, you can choose to live somewhere more affordable and create a schedule that works with your work hours.
Commuter student life can also include a mix of on-campus classes and online work. Some community colleges offer a variety of online classes. Taking advantage of these resources can help if you find yourself with a complicated schedule, or if you just want more flexibility.
Resources like the American Association of Community Colleges search tool, Community College Finder , can help you research potential colleges near you. The tool also shows you the areas across the country with the highest and lowest densities of colleges. The Department of Education’s College Scorecard lets you search colleges based on programs, size, and location.
Other Factors to Consider When Choosing a College
Your academic goals will also inform which college you choose. As you evaluate colleges, take a look at which colleges offer the major you want to pursue. If you are in the process of choosing your major, see if you can find out more about the programs that the community college near you offers. You could talk to current students or professors and evaluate whether it seems like a good school for your interests.
If you are applying for a mix of community and private college or private universities, creating a list of all your potential applications can be helpful.
You can organize this list by “match,” “reach,” and “safety” schools in order to help you consider all your options.
Thinking About the Cost of Community College
You might also consider a combination of scholarships, grants, and loans to help offset the total costs of college. To start, students can fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) each year. This application is used to determine aid including work-study, federal student loans, and scholarships, and grants.
Once you start tackling the process of paying for community college, keep in mind that the financial aid offices can be a great resource if you have any questions about finding aid for college. You can find more information on whether or not the college offers its own scholarships and how to apply.
There may also be state-specific financial aid available, such as the Cal Grant , which can be applied towards community college tuition. Other sites like FastWeb can help you find more specific scholarship opportunities based on your background and interests.
If these resources aren’t enough, it is possible to borrow private student loans for community college. While private loans can be helpful, they’re generally considered after other options have been exhausted. That’s because they don’t have to offer the same benefits to borrowers as federal student loans do — things like income-driven repayment plans.
Financing Your Education
If you do decide to attend a four-year university, you may now be looking into ways to pay for your education. A few options may include scholarships, grants, and federal student loans.
If those options do not work for your situation, you can apply for private student loans. SoFi offers undergraduate student loans to help students pay for school. There are no fees, and SoFi offers flexible repayment options to help students find the loan that fits their budget.
Is going to community college worth it?
Going to community college can be a worthwhile experience, offering students an opportunity to take college-level coursework at an affordable price. Other benefits include increased flexibility in scheduling and the possibility to live at home while taking classes. Students also have the opportunity to transfer to a four-year college.
Does community college look bad on a resume?
Including your time at community college does not look bad on a resume. If you earned a professional certificate or other degree at the community college, feel free to include it.
Is it hard to get a job after community college?
The ease of finding employment after community college may be influenced by the field you studied. For example, students graduating with a certificate in a high-demand field such as nursing or dental hygiene may find it is relatively easy to secure employment.
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