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!

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?

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.

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?

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.

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.

Kiersten Murphy
Executive Director and Founder Murphy College Consultants LLC

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

If you don't feel ready to leave home, if you need to save money or if you need some time to improve upon your academic GPA.

Ed Garcia
Assistant Professor/Counselor Austin Community College

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