Evan and I have both attended community college in our educational paths. We found it to be beneficial and a financially savvy choice. Community college is often overlooked due to the stigma. My high school culture frowned upon going to community college, even though I know plenty of people besides me who went there after. I went there a few different times in my life, most recently to obtain an associates degree and transfer on to a university. But four-year universities just don’t always make sense for people. So here are a few reasons why you should consider attending community college.
Sometimes a four-year university just isn’t right for your straight out of high school. Whether it be because of finances, family, maturity, goals, or a multitude of other reasons, it’s just not in the cards at that time. Going to community college means you can go part time with less hassle compared to part time at a four year. You can complete the lower division gen-ed courses while being closer to family.
Even if you’re not a recent high school graduate, you might just want to go back to school or get a degree, but need to continue your regular adult life. If you’re going to school and have to stop, it’s a faster process to start back up at community college than a four-year university.
Everyone gets in to community college. Not everyone gets in to universities, and there’s usually a time limit on admissions. I considered taking a gap year between community college and university, but once you’re accepted for a school year, you’re in just for that time and you can’t defer. I’m sure some schools offer deferment, but it’s more common not to, at least from my experience. If you’re unsure on timing, community college is always there whenever it fits into your life.
You Can Start Getting Credits Early
I started taking community college courses when I was 11. I just wanted to learn American Sign Language and community college was the best resource for that. Earlier, I did community theatre, which allowed me to get elective credits at the community college. So, I had college credit at age 6. Evan started taking classes in high school. Because we both started early, by the time we actually got to university level, we only had a couple years left each before being able to obtain degrees. Evan is still in school, but he’ll be finished in around two years. At the university level, you need a lot of credits, even if they aren’t degree related. If you get all the lower division and overall credits knocked out, you can focus more on just your major courses.
My community college was completely paid for through scholarships and financial aid. Since the classes are so much cheaper, money goes a longer way. A $1,000 scholarship doesn’t make much of a difference at a four-year, but it does at community college. If you’re worried that because community college is cheaper, it’ll be a lower quality education, don’t be. Realistically, I didn’t see a difference in quality of education between my community college and my university. I’m sure that’s an unpopular opinion, but just because a school is more prestigious, doesn’t mean it is better in every respect. I had some amazing teachers at community college and some not so great professors at university level. So it all just evened out. Student debt racks up quickly. I still have a little, even with community college. If I had gone straight to a university, by student debt would be much higher.
As mentioned in the Life Happens section, working for a four-year university degree doesn’t always fit in easily in life. Community college is more flexible than university. They have more vocational courses and certifications, so if you decided that going for a four-year isn’t in your future, you can still pursue an education that will help with employment. Four-years focus much more heavily in getting a bachelor’s degree or higher.
Changing majors is simpler in community college than at a four-year. Universities have different schools or departments within the university that you have to get into. There’s prerequisites to get into them, so it’s a slower process. There are pre-reqs for changing your degree in community college, but since it’s just lower division, there aren’t as many pre-reqs for classes in that degree field compared to university. For example, if you have to take psych 1 to start on a psychology degree, once you do that you can do psych 2 and other psych courses. At a university, you’d have to do psych 1 and psych 2, get accepted into the school, then start taking other psych classes that you couldn’t take until you were in the school. Essentially there’s more pre-reqs and restrictions at the university level.
Community colleges are a great resource for just learning for the sake of learning. If you just want to gain new information without spending a ridiculous amount of money, community college can provide that. There’s also plenty of fun classes to take.
Smaller, More Support
Teachers/Professors and Classes
Class sizes are generally smaller at community colleges than some universities. Private universities are an exception. A lot of them are much smaller than public universities and some community colleges. But from my personal experience, my community college classes were smaller than all but one of my university classes. The campus was smaller too, so it was a lot quicker to get from one class to another.
The teachers’ at community college typically just teach. They might have side activities related to their fields, but colleges don’t hire them to do things besides teach. Research universities hire professors to teach and research. For some of them, teaching is a requirement they have to deal with, but they would rather conduct research. At community college, they often have more time and interest in helping students. This is particularly helpful when you’re either just getting into college or getting back into it after years.
With the smaller school size, there are fewer students. You’re more likely to run into the same people and develop connections a lot easier. At my university, there were a few people I had multiple classes with over the two years. The classes were so big, we would never remember what classes we had together or when. We didn’t really interact. In community college, you end up getting to know people studying the same things.
The academic counselors at my community college were great. I received a lot of helpful guidance regarding degree and class decisions from my advisor. This isn’t the case at every community college though. I didn’t find the counselors super helpful at my university. This was partially because I knew what I wanted to do, so I only went in twice I think and they didn’t seem to know the answers to my questions.
Evan has gotten quite close to getting stuck at his university for extra years because the advisors keep giving him contradictory information. He also has seen several different advisors, because at university level, you aren’t assigned one person. At my community college, depending on your goals, you were assigned a specific advisor.
The population of universities usually consists of people around 17-25 years old. Community colleges have a greater variety of ages. More high schoolers, retired people, and people from all walks of life.
When I went back to community college after high school, I was one of the younger people in a lot of my classes. When you’re around people who have had more experience in life, you can learn different study skills and gain new perspectives. This helps with learning, not just grades. For our tips on how to get good grades, check out this post How to Get Amazing Grades in College. You might take a science class with someone who is studying to be an EMT and another who is planning on getting a PhD. It’s more of a melting pot of goals and achievements compared to a university where everyone wants to get an undergrad or graduate degree.
Easier to Get Into a Four-Year University After
One of the things they don’t always tell you about in the admissions process when applying to schools right out of high school, is that universities have set numbers for freshman and transfer students. So even if you have a 4.5 GPA in high school, if you’re slightly below another incoming freshman and you don’t get accepted, that doesn’t mean all the slots at the school are filled. There may still be transfer spots.
What they also don’t tell you is transferring from community college is a whole heck of a lot easier than trying to get in as a freshman. If I had tried to go to my university directly from high school, I don’t think I would have been accepted. My GPA wasn’t above a 4.0 (much lower actually). I didn’t have a ton of volunteer or internship experience. By the time I made it through community college, I had a better GPA, a more interesting life, and more direction. These factors all helped me get accepted to every university I applied for.
I’m not sure if other states have anything similar, but in California, there is something called TAG. TAG stands for transfer admission guarantee. As long as you meet the requirements and fill out an application, you are automatically accepted into the UC school you apply for. Some of them even guarantee admission into your major. I didn’t do this because I still had one math class when the applications were due, so I didn’t qualify. More information on TAG here.
Attending community college is a frugal way to get an education, explore different paths, and learn. Whether you want to become a doctor, just want to take an art class for fun, or have no idea what you want to do with your life, community college can help you. Bot of us benefitted from going to community college. We recommend it as an option people might otherwise overlook or even look down upon.