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?

Scott White
Director of Guidance Montclair High School

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

If the college you would be admitted to would not be where you would want to spend 4 years, community college is a better option. Its cheaper, you get a degree after 2 years, and usually all the credits are transferable.

Nancy Milne
Owner Milne Collegiate Consulting

Community College Considerations

Community colleges vary from place to place. While some serve as a stepping stone to a four year institution, others offer degrees only available through them. Maybe the student can't afford the cost of a 4 year school, or needs to be available to help on the home front. Or suppose the student needs to work so they can't handle a full course load/can only take classes at night. A local 2 year institution may be the best fit. Community colleges are often a good transition between high school and university for the student who hasn't found their stride. Review level courses, skill building classes, and survey seminars can prepare a student to be successful at the next level of education.

Helen Cella

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

If you don't feel like your adequately prepared for a 4 year college or university, or if money is a concern.

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.

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!

Eric Beers, Ph.D.
College and Career Counselor Air Academy High School

Consider community college and keep your options open

Many students (and some parents) automatically eliminate community college as a viable option for after high school. Many times, they eliminate the choice without even know about the benefits involved with community college. I like community college choice for many reasons, but here are my top three. First of all, the class size as community colleges are much more small than their four-year college counterparts. My average psychology course at the community college that I teach in is about 20 students. The average psychology course at the university is about 100 students. The community college can serve as kind of a security blanket for students not ready to be completely on their own. Community college teachers are kind of a transition between high school teachers and full blown college professors. The second factor is the overall cost; not just tuition, but fees! For one, three-credit course at the community college, the class fees are about $60. For one, three-credit course at the university, the class fees are over $350. Between tuition plus fees, the difference per class is well over $600. The last factor is the guaranteed transfer class list available through the community college. Many states have articulation agreements, guaranteeing credits to transfer to 4-year colleges in the state. The local community college has over 150 courses that will guarantee transfer to any 4-year college. They also have a 60+60 degree program where they guarantee the 60 credit associate's degree will transfer to the four-year school.

Mary Mariani

Is the community college your best choice for right now?

Frequently students are not encouraged to check to see if the community college might be the appropriate option for "right now". Parents and educators both might see the community college as only the "fall-back" plan if every other possibility fails. I have always told students to investigate all options when making the college decision. When assessing the different options, selection needs to be greatly influenced by achieving the goal of graduation in a reasonable amount of time. Three things are important to look at. 1) Have you made a selection in terms of what you want to pursue? 2) What is your academic skill level? Are you truly ready to make the leap from a high school program to a challenging university format? If you are academically ready, are you emotionally ready for the challenge? 3) Can you afford the cost of going to a university? 1) Frequently students do not have a strong concept or idea of what area they would like to study and wind up changing their majors a number of times while in college. This type of experimentation can be very costly for students and parents both. Junior college is a good place to test the waters and take classes to see what is available in terms of academic pursuits and career options. 2) If the student's skill level is not where it should be to succeed at the university level, the junior college is the place to build on those skills. Many colleges and universities do provide remediation, but that remediation is costly in both time and dollars. Students might be prepared academically but not emotionally or sufficiently mature to handle the challenges of balancing a college academic life and the newly gained freedoms of the college world. 3) The financial aspects of college/university are a very important consideration. Frequently colleges will present a financial package to students which includes loans, etc. I have encouraged students to reconsider attending a four-year program if money needs to be borrowed. Save the borrowing for the second half has always been my advice.

Suzan Reznick
Independent Educational Consultant The College Connection

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

Having taught at a community college for over a decade, I do know what a wonderful opportunity it can be for many students. It is a great option if there are financial and/or personal issues that would not allow you to begin your college career away from home. For some students, it can offer them a chance to bring up their GPA so that they could then transfer to a "top" college. I had one client who after attending her local community college was successfully able to transfer to Cornell University! If you believe that for whatever reason you are not "ready" to go away, then I strongly suggest that you pay a visit to your local community college and see if it would be the "right" beginning for you.