community college
Community college is a great option when trying to balance work and academic life. (Image via Unsplash)
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community college
Community college is a great option when trying to balance work and academic life. (Image via Unsplash)

Choose a path that works best for you.

Going straight to a four-year university might sound like the best option, but going to a community college before transferring or even on its own might provide a better path.

1. Community colleges offer an affordable alternative to students who don’t want to accrue debt or simply can’t attend a four-year university.

The average cost of one year of tuition at a four-year university is about $10,000, whereas at a community college, it’s roughly $3,000. Who wouldn’t want to take advantage of the savings, even if pursuing a bachelor’s in the future? There’s no reason to spend so much more on general education requirements when community college offers a much more affordable alternative.

2. Community colleges are built for people who are balancing education with work, and offer more flexible scheduling options as a result.

This includes night classes and class schedules that leave whole weekdays free. For many, the obstacles barring them from education aren’t the money or commitment, but the time — many need to continue working during any education they pursue. Universities often are less able to accommodate the needs of these students, but community colleges understand the need to be flexible.

3. Community colleges tend to offer more online courses than traditional universities, as well as hybrid courses with less on-campus time.

A major benefit of community colleges is the proximity to every student’s home and workplace but, in some cases, mobility might be further impaired. Where students would have to make it to campus multiple times a week at a four-year university, at community colleges, students can enroll in online courses that either take place remotely or involve significantly less on-campus time. Some classes might have students on campus one night a week while others may only require them on campus for tests.

4. Community colleges allow for a personalized work/school balance that includes taking more or less credits depending on the situation.

Due to the varying situations of community college students, colleges are more than prepared to help students who only want to take one or two classes per semester. They are also fully prepared to take students through their general education requirements within two or three years, provided the student takes more credits per semester. Unlike university, where the goal is generally to gain a degree in the most efficient way possible, community colleges cater to those students and to those who want to take classes for myriad other reasons.

5. Community colleges often have smaller class sizes than larger traditional universities, so students can get more individualized learning help.

Due to the smaller size of community colleges, class sizes are often smaller than at larger universities. Because of this, professors are better able to keep track of individual students and offer more personalized help. Students can get to know their professors before and after classes or through office hours. They can benefit from a relationship with a professor who has more time to spend on individual students.

6. Community colleges allow high school graduates who aren’t sure what they want yet to pursue higher education while also examining other options.

It’s common for high schoolers not to have a clear idea of where to go next upon finishing high school. Society often likes to pressure such students into choosing a path before they’re ready, leading to complications later on. Instead of jumping into a field blindly, enrolling in community college ensures that recent high school grads will maintain their forward momentum while setting themselves up for other options and exploring different paths before committing.

7. Community colleges provide a way for students to get GEs out of the way before moving on to university.

General education requirements can easily take up the first two years of university learning, leaving only the last two years for major and minor requirements. During these first two years, classes at university are generally impacted and might have much larger class sizes than is best for learning. Rather than spending money on a university only to receive mediocre general education, students can finish their GEs at their local community college before ever applying to university, saving both money and stress.

8. Community colleges provide AA degrees and professional certifications, which are enough to get into many fields.

Aside from just providing a starting place before heading off to university, many students find that they don’t have to pursue more schooling after receiving their associate’s degree and, in some cases, they can use that degree toward a separate certificate, like in the paralegal field. Paralegals make up a growing field that doesn’t require a BA degree, and that’s far from the only example.

9. Community colleges don’t discriminate applicants based on high school GPA, so for students with lower GPAs, community college can raise their grade before they attempt to apply to a university.

Universities only look at the most recent level of education when considering applications. That means that those with an AA degree are judged based on that degree rather than their high school performance. For students who, for whatever reason, didn’t do well during high school, community college can become a way to get those grades up enough to qualify for financial aid at university, or get into a top-tier program.

10. Community colleges often have smaller campuses than universities, which can be a helpful transitionary environment from high school.

Transitioning from high school to college is a huge step, and for those who come from smaller high schools or were even homeschooled, it can seem intimidating. The smaller campus sizes of most community colleges, and the ability to live at home while taking classes, can serve as a great middle ground between the two.

11. Community colleges allow students to pursue higher education while still living at home.

Similar to the last point, community college allows students to remain at home when they might not have otherwise been able to while pursuing an education elsewhere. For any number of reasons, students might wish to remain home rather than move into a dorm or another city. In some cases, work and family force them to remain in the same location, or maybe the student acts as caretaker for children or aging parents. Whatever the case, an inability to move might make higher education seem impossible, but community college provides a way out.

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