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 take a look at the pros and cons of attending community college, in addition to other factors you should consider when choosing a college.
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 less expensive than their four-year counterparts, attending a community college before a university could help you cut tuition costs significantly. According to Education Data Initiative, the average cost of tuition at a two-year college in 2023 was $3,501, as compared to $9,678 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 transitional time to get accustomed to a new schedule and new academic expectations before committing to a four-year university.
Easier Admissions Requirements
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.
Flexibility with Classes
Another major benefit of community college is that students have flexibility with classes and the opportunity to explore a variety of academic interests before committing to a major at a four-year university. Class times also may be more suitable for students that work full-time or have other commitments outside of school.
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).
Recommended: Financial Benefits of Community College
Cons of Going to Community College
While there are many pros to attending a community college before transferring to a four-year university, there are some cons to consider, as well.
Possible Limited Academic Offerings
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 eventually 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.
Missing Out on Social Benefits
Another potential downside to attending community college is that 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.
Other Factors to Consider When Choosing a College
Your academic goals will guide 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 colleges and public 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
While the cost of community college is less than a four-year university, it’s still an expense that should not be taken lightly. You might 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, 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, and it’s recommended to use a scholarship search tool to find scholarships you may qualify for.
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 and student loan forgiveness.
Financing Your Education
Whether you decide to attend a community college first or head straight to a four-year institution, you’ll need to find a way to pay for your education. A few options may include federal student loans, scholarships, and grants.
If you’ve exhausted all federal student aid options, no-fee private student loans from SoFi can help you pay for school. The online application process is easy, and you can see rates and terms in just minutes. Repayment plans are flexible, so you can find an option that works for your financial plan and 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.
SoFi Private Student Loans
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