How do you know if community college is right for you?

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Our counselors answered:

How do you know if community college is right for you?

Wendy Andreen, PhD
College & Career Planning

Community College Questions

There are so many variables involved in where a person attends college and that includes community colleges as well as four-year colleges. To get you started, consider how you answer the following five questions when deciding the best place to further your education. 1. Financially, what can I (my parents) afford? Even this question encompasses many factors - Am I living at home and attending college?, Is there a four-year college or state university in my hometown?, Have I submitted a FAFSA for colleges to determine if I am eligible for financial aid that may offset the price tag of a four-year college? 2. Did I struggle to graduate from high school and are my SAT/ACT scores low (or non-existent)? Community college can be an excellent place to gain your academic footing before moving on to a four-year college/university. However, just because the community college doesn't usually require SAT or ACT for admission, it doesn't mean that you don't have to prove yourself. They are generous with admissions but still require some kind of placement evaluation to see if you need remediation in math or English. 3. Would I be better served academically in smaller classes? Many students find they prefer the smaller setting of the community college and can get to know the instructor faster. 4. Am I trying to figure out what to select as a major? Since many colleges require students to complete a set of core courses, no matter what their major, it can be helpful to complete these prerequisites at a community college and save money at the same time. Community colleges also have advisors and career centers that can help give you some direction about majors. However, my main caution is that you select your courses carefully and as soon as you have a major selected and a college destination, be sure to talk with an advisor at the four-year college to be sure your community college hours will transfer - not just as electives but towards your degree requirements! You won't save money, if your hours don't align with the new university/college degree requirements. 5. Am I looking for a Bachelor's degree at this time or certification in a specialized arena? Community colleges continue to expand their programs and many offer excellent two-year degrees and certifications that will give the student exactly what he/she needs to get started in a career. Have you checked them out lately? There are two-year degrees & certifications in areas such as automotive technology, computer networking, cosmetology, jazz/music, audio technology, web/graphic design, programming, electrical, plumbing, air-conditioning/heating, culinary/chef training, and more!

Tyler Burton
President Burton College Tours

Try it out.

Enroll in a class and try it out. Try to choose a course that will transfer easily to another academic institution. An English course is a good place to begin. Make an appointment with a counselor to discuss matriculation agreements with four year institutions. Attend an open house.

Erin Avery
Certified Educational Planner Avery Educational Resources, LLC

Questions to Ask Yourself Regarding CC

Are you unsure/unwilling to navigate the four-year college search and application process? Are you concerned about not knowing what you want to study? Do your parents teach at a community college? Does your state offer an incentive program for students with a certain GPA to attend community college and then transfer to a state university?

Patricia Aviezer
President Inside Track To College, Inc.

Staying Close To Home - The Community College Experience

Whether to attend a community college and transfer after completing an Associate Degree is an option families explore for many reasons. Decisions are always about personal choice and should be based on facts, so let's take a few minutes to examine the Pros and Cons: Pros 1. The community college system in your State has a 2+2 program, meaning that when you complete your two-year degree, you are promised entry into one of your top three choices of State Universities, with all credits transferable. 2. Your State scholarship will pay 100% of tuition and you live at home, so no food and board expenses for the first two years of your college experience. 3. You have a great P/T job and will be able to keep that while you're attending the local college. 4. You have family responsibilities or concerns and need to remain "close to home." 5. You were a "late bloomer" academically in high school and want an opportunity to improve your academic profile and standing to enter the four-year university of your choice. Now let's look at some of the Cons 1. Focus is important when attending a community college, drop out rates are higher. 2. Community college attracts students through "open enrollment" meaning the only requirement to enter is an application, transcript and fee payment. This can mean that some of the students who attend may not be as focused on their academics and goals as you are. The question to ask yourself here is, "what will I be learning from my peers?" 3. Class sizes are large, parking is a nightmare, and course selection options are snatched up quickly. Will you be able to graduate in two years? 4. Will you be able to enter competitive majors, like nursing, or is there a two year waiting period to get in to that major? What will you be doing in the meantime? Will you even get in? 5. When you've completed your two year degree, how many of those credits will transfer to a four-year university, does this mean you'll need 3 or 4 years more to complete your university degree?

Annie Reznik
Counselor/CEO College Guidance Coach

How do you know if community college is right for you?

Most students would benefit from taking courses through a community college. From a financial standpoint, the lower tuition rate makes community college an extremely attractive option. Taking transferable summer courses at a local community college can enable students to minimize graduation debt levels. Also, many community colleges are incorporating increased academic and student services than in the past. For example, Montgomery College in Maryland offers a highly competitive honors program and merit scholarships.

Jill Karatkewicz
Counselor East Hampton High School

How do you know if community college is right for you?

Community college can be the right answer for many students for a variety of reasons! One example might be a student who got off to a slow start in high school and did not perform as well as he/she could have, which ultimately results in a GPA that is below the standards of the four-year colleges he/she has investigated. Attending a community college for a year or two may give this student an opportunity to improve their GPA and transfer to the four-year school that may have been out of reach directly out of high school. Another example of a student who may want to consider community college is a student whose family cannot afford the tuition costs of a public or private four year college - community college is significantly cheaper than nearly all four-year colleges. Most frequently, a student can take the same "core requirements" at a community college for a fraction of the cost of the same courses at a four-year institution.

Daniel Rufner
My Game Plan

Community college is a great match for many students.

I typically say a Community College is a great option for students if you have at least two of the following that apply to you. 1. Finances. Community colleges cost a fraction of four-year schools. If you are financially challenged go to a CC for your first two years for your basic undergrad classes, many of which will be the same as you'd take at a four-year school, and often in smaller class size. 2. Academics. If your GPA and/or test scores are not where you need to be for admissions, especially if you have particular four-year school in mind, then go to a community college to gain credits and raise your GPA to a transfer level. Many community colleges have direct transfer partnerships with nearby four-year schools. 3. Specialty Majors. Many four-year colleges don't offer specialty degrees (i.e. culinary arts, firefighting, physical therapy) that you can get through an associate's degree at a CC, preparing you directly for work or to continue on to Bachelor's in a similar program. 4. Living situation.Not sure if dorm life is for you and ready to be on your own? Do you prefer to stay local to live at home for social or financial reasons? If so a local CC can be a great option. 5. Athletics. Many CCs have fantastic athletic programs, some better than 4-year schools. If you are an athlete not NCAA eligible, not recruited out of high school, or not wanting to ride the bench as a freshman CCs are a great option. You play the first two years, get transfer credits for admissions at 4-year schools, may be seen by four-year schools to help in recruiting, and transfer in with two or three years of eligibility left.

Francine Schwartz
Founder/ President Pathfinder Counseling LLC

Community College Can be a Great Option

For many students, attending their local community college can be a wonderful start to their college career. There are many advantages to attending a community college. First of all is cost. Students can save thousands of dollars in tuition, fees, room and board attending community college. Some community colleges do have dorms or housing sponsored by the college. Today's community colleges resemble their bigger and more well know four year schools. They offer state of the art gyms, media centers, cafeteria's and more. They also offer options for Associate Degrees and Certificate Programs in fields such as Computer Assisted Drafting and various health careers and more. Secondly students may be able to complete up to two years worth of their basic studies requirements and transfer their courses directly to a four year degree granting institution. Many community colleges have articulation agreements with state and private universities to make the transfer process seamless. They also have counselors who advise students and keep them on track so that they will be able to transfer easily. Finally some students are not ready to make the move to a four year college. They may need to work to earn enough money to pay for a more expensive school. They may want to take classes part time while they work or volunteer. Students might be trying to get a better handle on what it is they want to major in before making a commitment. It is also the case that a student might have missed deadlines or not have been accepted into a four year college and most community colleges have open admissions and may not require test scores. So for all of the above reasons, a community college may be the right step for you on the college path. Francine Schwartz, M.A., LPC, NCC Founder and President Pathfinder Counseling LLC

Linda Videll

Location, location, location

The initial reason community colleges were created was to serve the population around them. One of the big advantages to a community college is to save money and they allow you to live at home and commute. (Many four year schools actually make it mandatory for freshman to live in the dorms.) Although any post education is a wise decision, saving money while expanding your knowledge is doubly wise! After determining the community college that is near you, research the different programs that are available to determine if it is the best choice for you! Most community colleges have a matriculation program in place with nearby colleges and universities. This allows you to complete the general education requirements at the community college and transfer in as a junior!

Beth Burnham

It could be for Everyone

Community college's are becoming more popular because of their price. If you were not the most motivated student in high school the best place for you to start is a community college. Community colleges will assist you in your choice of major and what your career goals are for your future. If you didn't take the right classes in high school for your college major or you didn't do well in those classes a community college can assist you with getting to the place you want to be.