After graduating from high school, many kids decide to go off to college and further their education. At 17 or 18 years old, this can be overwhelming. Four year universities are undoubtedly very expensive, and unless you have a scholarship, going to a private or state school can put a very large hole in your pocket. Furthermore, if you go to college right after high school, the inordinate amount of majors to choose from is a frightening thing to take on. At such a young age, it’s almost unfair to expect that they know right away what they want to do with the rest of their lives. Most high school graduates don’t have much life experience, and may not even be fully aware of what their passion is or what truly interests them.
Community college is a great way for these young adults to gain college credits while still maintaining the flexibility to explore some of their options. Community college gets a bad reputation a lot of the time, with some people feeling it’s where underachievers go, or that students go there weren’t smart enough to get into a “real college”.
Most community college’s tuition is less than $2,000 a semester, compared to the average rate of almost $9,000 at a state school. By choosing to go to community schools first and then transferring to either a private or state university, you can easily save upwards of $14,000 depending on what transfer school you choose. If you factor in room and board, the savings are exponential.
Community schools are typically 2 years, and they are definitely more flexible and lenient than a regular university. In addition, due to the low tuition costs, classrooms are much smaller which gives students a better chance at a connection with their professor and more one-on-one time to learn material. A downside of this, however, is that the workload usually isn’t what you’d see at a state school. But what you learn and how much you learn is up to you. If you choose to go to community school for monetary reasons, but are worried that you aren’t learning enough in your desired field of study, you can take it upon yourself to study harder and do more extensive research. Your professors are there to help you, and since community schools are much smaller than universities, they have many resources available to you and will be more than happy to help you further your studies independently.
Another advantage of choosing a 2 year school is that you have more freedom to explore your career options. For instance, say you started as a freshman and were convinced you wanted to be a psychology major. After taking a few psychology courses, you find that you aren’t as into it as you originally thought, but that biology class you took to fill up your schedule is absolutely fascinating. Changing your major at a 2 year school is easier, and won’t put too much of a dent in your wallet. That pressure of needing to know what you want to do for the rest of your life isn’t so heavy on your shoulders.
In addition to this, there are many college professors that have a very extensive resume that decide to teach at community schools. Although you may get a teacher that is very young and possibly an inexperienced professor , you will find -more times than not- that there are very accredited professors teaching at your school. When I was in community school, I had a philosophy professor that studied and taught at Oxford University. He was one of the smartest men I’ve ever met in my life, and I will never forget the impact he made on my life. A lot of professors decide to teach part time at two year schools so that they themselves can further their personal goals. You might be surprised at how many amazing professors are at these institutions.
Community college is also great for older people who are either returning to school, or decided to take time off after high school to do other things. Or, if you have other obligations and need to work full time, there are many more night classes available at community college than there are at four year universities. If you are going to college as a freshman at 25 years old, it is a great opportunity to build your GPA, get some credits under your belt, and transfer to a bigger school to get your bachelor’s degree.
Starting out at a state school is very overwhelming for a lot of students. They are expected to completely manage their schedules, and counselors are not always available to you when you need them. Some won’t even help you put your schedule together. With the large amount of students going to these schools, certain resources are not available. It can be a very isolating and overwhelming experience if you don’t know what to do or need specific guidance. Community college is much more personal, and by the time you leave, you have learned many of the skills necessary to manage your time and schedule, and will know what classes you need to take that will apply to your area of study.
Many people feel that they want to “get the college experience”, and unfortunately that is something you won’t get at a two year school. When deciding what to do with your future, figuring out what you want to gain out of your experience before immediately applying to a state school is essential in ensuring you find the right fit for you. If you are worried about the finances, and don’t care about going away to college and living in a dorm, community college may be a very good option for you to consider.
When it is time to apply for college, take your time and look into all options that are available to you. Don’t rush into any decisions, and don’t immediately dismiss community college simply because you feel like it may be beneath you. Do your research, visit schools, and always do what feels best. All students have different needs. If you know you want to be a heart surgeon, community college is not the place you will want to start. But for the students who are confused or unsure of where they want to go in life, rushing off to a large and expensive state school doesn’t always have to be your only option.