If you are not sure where you want to go to college or even if you want to go to college, you may want to consider trying a community college. Community colleges are publicly funded post-secondary schools that are accessible to everyone no matter your GPA, gender, major, age, or financial status.
Community colleges are located within a community and are typically more accessible to the general population. There can be many benefits such as lower cost, smaller campuses, flexibility, workplace assistance, support services, and a rolling admission process allowing you to start and finish at any point. Let’s look at some of the benefits one-by-one.
1. Transfer your credits to earn a Bachelor’s Degree
Community colleges offer associates degrees, certificates, and vocational programs. Associates degree can be transferrable to a university to earn a bachelor’s degree later down the road. Many community colleges collaborate with universities so students can easily continue their education and transfer their credits from the community college to the university program without skipping a beat.
Ask your community college if they have any collaborations and also make sure the community college is regionally accredited to ensure your credits will transfer.
2. Earn your Bachelor’s Degree Cheaper
You may not actually need to transfer your credits to a university if the community college offers bachelor’s degrees. Many community colleges have begun to add bachelor’s degrees allowing students to complete all of their studies at their community college. Some community colleges have even gone to the extreme of removing the word “community” from their college name and have added “state college” instead.
3. Community Colleges often have Rolling Admission
Community college usually have a rolling or open admission policy. This means that students can start at the beginning of any term and apply to a community college throughout the year whereas a university has deadlines that you must met each year. This opens the door to attend at various times of the year as long as you have a high school diploma or GED.
4. Easier GPA and ACT/SAT Requirements
Community colleges do not have difficult GPA requirements and usually do not require ACT or SAT scores. Though, most community colleges require you to take a placement test to determine your academic strengths and weakness. Keep in mind that this type of placement test is not a pass or fail test, it just helps determine what classes you can enroll in. Admission counselors usually guide you through your first term pending on your chosen path. You will still have a say in what courses you would like to enroll in, however there may be prerequisites required in order to enroll in some of the courses.
5. Support to Improve your Grades
If you struggled in high school and your grades on your high school transcript will not meet the admission requirements at your chosen university, a community college may also provide an opportunity to improve your grades so you can apply at a later time. They also have extracurricular activities, tutoring services, career counseling and planning, study skills workshops, academic advising, support for those with varying abilities, and workplace opportunities. You just have to take advantage of the services offered. These services can help you get accepted as a transfer student to your dream school and they are most likely free.
6. Save Money at a Community College
With the rising cost of education, a community college is also an affordable option. A university can cost well over $30,000 dollars a year whereas a community college can cost as low as $5,000. In addition, federal aid (such as the FAFSA) and scholarships are still available for those in need of financial support. It can also be cheaper to live in a small community on your own, or if able, still live at home which reduces your cost to attend school significantly.
Some states even offer free classes or full ride scholarships at community colleges for students that reside in the state they are attending school in; this is often referred to the Promise Program that was implemented during Obama’s administration in 2015. Often times, the program is offered in a form of a scholarship and may be based on the degree you are seeking. The goal of these programs are to retain an educated workforce after graduation in order to provide employers qualified candidates in high demand fields. To qualify for these tuition-free programs, in-state students must usually apply to the state’s tuition-free scholarship program and submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Talk to your guidance counselor for more information.
7. Community Colleges have Smaller Campuses
A community college often has a smaller campus. This allows those with anxiety about larger classes to attend classes. It also means more support for students that need it as class sizes may only have 25-30 students compared to 75-100 or larger class sizes that are found at universities. A community college still has a personalized feel and professors often know you by name, whereas at a university the professors have assistants and until you reach your more advanced courses, you may not have direct access to them. This can be imitating for some coming straight from high school. You might find it easier to make friends at a smaller campus as well and they are generally more walkable so you may not need a car to navigate around.
8. Community Colleges are Flexible
Flexibility is what attracts a lot of various students. Juggling employment, families, children, or other commitments can be difficult while earning a degree, so the flexibility a community college offers can be extremely appealing for adults. Compared to universities, the community college may also offer more weekend, evening, and online classes to accommodate the needs of their students. Many students who are unsure of what they want to major in also have some flexibility in the electives during the beginning stages of attending a community college. However, keep in mind you should talk to an advisor to ensure that you aren’t taking too many unnecessary classes once you decide on a major. Always revisit the requirements of any universities you may wish to attend after gaining your two-year degree as well to ensure you are on track for a bachelor’s degree.
9. Get Workplace Skills
Because community colleges tend to focus on preparing students for the workplace or professional employment, they offer many hands-on experiences. For example, students in a dental hygiene program may actually work in a dental clinic when not in class or the community college could actually have one on campus that the public can use at a discounted price. Internships and volunteer opportunities are also often abundant giving students on-the-job training that helps prepare them for a career or build up there resume.
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Because of a community college’s workplace focus, they frequently partner with companies and industries within the community that allow their students to be exposed to real-word application. This provides opportunities for students to network in their own community. Having this exposure may lead to an employment or paid internship opportunity.
No matter what your aspirations may be, a community college can provide the next steps necessary to meet your educational and career goals. Community colleges are a viable option, whether you know what you want to do when you grow up, lack funding, or simply want time to explore your options. Your local community college may be the right place to start on your path to a brighter future.