By Emily Shearing, Are you one of those students who know exactly what schools you want to apply to, but are worried about paying for it? Or are you confused as to where you want to go or what major you’ll pursue? You might want to pencil community college into your plans. Six million students across the country currently attend community college, and many of them go on to attend four-year universities. These questions can help you determine if community college is right for you. Are you unsure of your major? Because of its affordable tuition, community college allows you the chance to explore a variety of subjects without the pressure of going into excessive debt. At a four-year college, spending an extra year or two at college because you switch your major can cost you a lot. But by using a community college to narrow your major and your career goals, you can save a significant amount of money. Are you concerned about financial aid? Did you receive your award letter from your dream college, but can’t justify the expense? Pay for just two years there instead of four. Attend a community college for the first two years, then transfer. Are you anxious about leaving home? You might not be ready to take the huge leap to on-campus life. An easier transition might be from high school student to community college commuter to four-year scholar. “For a lot of students who might not be academically or emotionally ready to move on to a four-year school, community college is a great way to get ready,” says Gail Cummins, director of admissions and recruitment at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College (rowancabarrus.edu) in Concord, N.C. “Students can learn how to get a feel for the college world before they are bombarded with the going-ons at a four-year university.” Do you want to start a career quickly? Community and technical colleges offer many programs that allow you to join the workforce with an associate degree or certificate. You’ll find exciting programs like automotive technology, optics, engineering technology and culinary arts at two-year schools. But aren’t community colleges just an extension of high school? “Sometimes community colleges get a bum rap about not being as good as a four-year school, but they just might be the right thing for a lot of students,” Cummins says. “Students need to expect to have rigorous college-level courses.” Community college is college. And if you walk into class with the attitude that it’s going to be easy, you’re going to be in for a surprise. But if you go in with the understanding that community college has courses and facilities just like a university, and is filled with students who want to learn just like you, you can be successful. “The major benefit of attending a community college is the personal connection you get to have with the faculty and administration staff,” says Lanna Durst, a sophomore at Northeast Mississippi Community College. “At a community college, you are more than just a number on a roll or a name in the computer.” Still unsure? Whatever your college situation, factoring community college into your plans has the potential to save you money and still give you the education you deserve.