If you’ve decided to take the plunge and go to college, good for you! A higher education can open doors which you never even knew existed. Now that you are ready to begin, you probably have a few different types of higher-learning institutions to consider.
Community colleges are found in most areas, but you may have a traditional four-year university nearby as well. Vocational schools (which are also sometimes called tech schools or trade schools) are also an option to consider.
There are benefits and drawbacks to each of these institutions.
Community colleges are sometimes called junior colleges or city colleges. They are usually public schools – schools which are funded by tax dollars – that offer two-year programs. You can usually earn an associate’s degree from a community college and some also offer other diploma and certificates for various career training.
Students choose to attend community colleges for a few different reasons.
Many people want to earn their associate’s degree at a community college before transferring to a four-year institution to pursue a bachelor’s degree. In most cases, a student with an associate’s degree from a community college is able to transfer all of their earned credits to a four-year institution in order to pursue a bachelor’s degree, but keep in mind that this does vary from school to school.
Others simply want to receive a two-year degree as training before entering the work force. They do not plan on attending a university following their time at the community college.
In some cases, people are unable to be accepted to a university because of their test scores or high school grades. They opt to attend a community college, which typically offers remedial classes as prep work before taking actual college classes which earn college credit.
The cost of community college is typically much lower than the cost of a traditional four-year university, and many people choose to start out at a community college in order to save money. This way you will be able to complete part of your education at a substantial savings.
Most community colleges offer a greater flexibility in scheduling. Classes are often available at night or on weekends; traditional universities typically assume that most students are full-time students who can attend classes on weekdays during daytime hours. Many non-traditional college students have full-time jobs and are not able to attend classes during the day, so community college is a perfect way to get started.
Another great benefit of community college is the class sizes! The schools themselves are smaller than sprawling universities, so classes usually have far less students in them. Some people prefer a smaller setting when they are getting started with college.
A university is a school that offers students the chance to earn academic degrees in many different majors. The programs offered do vary from school to school, so you will need to ensure that your preferred field of study is available at that particular school. Public universities are government-run and funded by tax dollars, while private universities are privately funded and may have different curriculum and policies than public schools. Private universities may have smaller campuses and smaller class sizes, but they are also typically pricier to attend.
Universities have undergraduate programs – programs to earn a bachelor’s degree – and some have graduate programs to earn a Master’s degree or higher. (You will not be able to attend a community college in order to receive your Master’s degree.)
The cost of tuition at a university is normally higher than the cost at a community college, which is why many people wind up attending community college before moving on to the university. If you are a non-traditional student, this may be a factor for you.
Vocational schools usually prepare people to work in specific jobs or trades, such as auto mechanics or cosmetics. They are typically considered to be non-academic schools (which are why they are sometimes referred to as trade schools) but in some rare cases credit earned at vocational schools can be transferred on to other colleges. You would have to research this further before making any assumptions.
The availability of financial aid or funding to attend community colleges, universities, and vocational schools depends upon the accreditation of the school and other various factors, but they are all excellent options for you to consider when you decide to return to school. Any additional education or training that you receive is most-likely going to help your opportunities to obtain a better job or enter a higher paying career.
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.
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