Several of the fastest-growing occupations in the United States require an associate’s degree or professional certificate rather than a bachelor’s degree, making a community college education a valid choice for many students.
Going to community college rather than a four-year university is actually good decision in many situations. In some cases, it’s almost a necessity. If you’re on the fence and not sure one way or the other, here are seven things to consider before you sign on the dotted line:
1. You don’t have be perfect. Poor grades or less-than-stellar SAT scores can hurt your chances of getting into many selective schools, but community colleges generally have open admissions in which the only requirement for entrance is a high school diploma or GED. Just note that you may be required to take remedial classes before enrolling in classes for college credit in subject areas that aren’t your strong point.
2. Schedule flexibility. Night classes aren’t anything new, but most community colleges schedule courses with working adults in mind. Core classes are scheduled at several times throughout the week and some classes are even available on Saturdays. Just remember that the sooner you register, the better—popular classes in desired time slots tend to fill up fast.
3. You can save money. Tuition and fees are considerably lower at community colleges than most public and private four-year schools. You could realistically save several thousand dollars by completing the first two years of your studies at a community college before transferring to a university to earn your bachelor’s degree. It’s a good idea to meet with advisors or counselors at your school as well as the university you plan on attending to ensure that your credits will transfer easily.
4. You can still earn your bachelor’s degree from a well-known university. Sadly, some students are just too downright embarrassed to attend community college, even though they could truly benefit from the experience. The truth is, no one has to know that you went to the local CC before wrapping up your degree elsewhere. In fact, you could potentially earn such great grades during your first two years of college that you get into a better university than you could have straight out of high school.
5. The classes are smaller. Community colleges are generally much smaller than four-year college campuses. Less space translates into fewer students, which means most classes are a lot smaller than their university equivalents. If you are overwhelmed by the idea of sitting in an auditorium with three hundred other college freshmen to take a required course like algebra or American history, you might prefer a community college classroom instead. And once you transfer elsewhere to earn your bachelor’s degree, upper-level courses that are major-specific are usually much smaller than core classes that are required by everyone.
6. You can actually get to know your professors. Some instructors are more personable than others, but when there are fewer students in each class, professors tend to learn more about each student. You’ll have a greater chance of receiving one-on-one attention during class if you need help. Regardless of where you go to school and how big the classes are, you should never be too embarrassed to ask for help when you are confused!
7. You will meet a wide variety of students. Community college students are a mixture of traditional-aged students trying to save money while living at home, working adults who are hoping to change careers, parents who are going back to school now that their children are older, senior citizens who are taking classes for the sheer fun of it, and many other “types” of people. You will have the chance to interact and collaborate with a diverse group of people of all ages, a skill that will come in handy once you enter the workforce. Networking is a great way to learn about job openings and other advancements. The more people you know, the better your chances!
Learn more about community colleges in your area with the our School Comparison tool!
Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.
Have something to say? Feel free to add comments or additional information.