Jennifer Wilber works as an ESL instructor, substitute teacher, and freelance writer. She holds a B.A. in Creative Writing and English.
With the continuously rising costs of college tuition, high school seniors (and their parents) may be looking for ways to cut costs while still getting a quality education. Even if you have some scholarships, grants, or other financial aid, you may still need to take out loans to be paid back with substantial interest. Attending a community college for your first two years of college before transferring to a university can save you quite a bit of money in the long run.
Aside from tuition costs, there are many other benefits of attending a community college before transferring to a four-year university. Both recent high school graduates and returning adult students may find community college to be the best fit for reaching their educational goals.
1. Tuition Cost
The most obvious benefit to community college over four-year universities is tuition cost. Community colleges offer the same high-quality education as universities, but for a fraction of the cost. Many instructors at community colleges also teach classes at universities, so you have access to the same expertise for less. If you haven’t decided on a major yet, this can be especially important. You can take the basic core classes now and take a couple classes for a major you might be interested in, and you won’t be out as much money if you decide to change your major down the line.
2. Housing and Living Costs
By enrolling in your local community college, you can continue to live at home during your first two years. While this may not be ideal for many college freshmen who are eager for the independence of living away from mom and dad for the first time, it may make more financial sense for some families for you to continue to live at home for two more years. Aside from reduced tuition cost, living at home during your first two years of college can save you a lot of money on housing costs, as well as on other living necessities such as food if you would have otherwise relied on student dining options or carryout. You also save money on travel costs if you would have otherwise been coming home most weekends.
If you have other responsibilities outside of your education, such as a job or caring for children or another family member, community college may offer the flexibility you need to be able to meet your educational goals. Community colleges tend to offer more night classes than traditional four-year schools. Some even offer weekend classes, online, and distance-learning classes as well to help you fit your education into your schedule. While many four-year universities are also starting to offer online class options, community colleges still offer more flexible scheduling overall.
4. Easier Admission Process
If you weren’t the best student in high school, community college gives you a second chance at getting a quality education. The admissions process is less stressful overall for community college. Community college admissions don’t care about your ACT of SAT scores. If your grades weren’t so high, you can still be accepted into your local community college, though you may have to take extra basic classes to ensure you are ready for higher level required courses. Once you have proven yourself through your two-year course work and have earned your associate degree, you will be ready to transfer your credits to a four-year university to finish your bachelor’s degree, even if you didn’t do as well as your peers in high school.
5. Smaller Class Size
Community colleges tend to have smaller class sizes. While at universities it’s not uncommon for classes to fill and entire lecture hall, community college classes tend to have an average of twenty or so students in each class section. With smaller classes, professors can communicate with students on an individual basis more often. They tend to be more willing to offer students individual help during and outside of class. With one-on-one help directly from your professor, it is easier to gain a better understanding of the material and do better on your exams overall.
6. Easier Transition Socially
Moving away to college in a different city can be scary, especially for students who are shy or who are less socially inclined. If you enroll at your local community college, you are more likely to have classes with people you already know. Making friends may be easier for certain students if they already know some people there.
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Community colleges usually also offer the same types of interest-based clubs as traditional four-year universities, so there are still plenty of opportunities to make new friends outside of class. While there are plenty of extracurricular activities to choose from at community colleges, there tends to be less emphasis on sports than there is at many state universities, so students who aren’t interested in sports won’t be at a disadvantage socially like they may be at some state universities where social life heavily revolves around the school’s sports teams.
7. More Time to Choose a Major
If you still don’t know what you want to major in by time you are ready to start college, it might make more sense for you to take basic classes at a community college before transferring to a four-year degree program. You can earn a transfer degree and take a variety of different classes while you decide what it is you really want to do. If you start a specific major and change your mind while you are still enrolled at a two-year community college, it won’t set you back as much financially as it would if you changed your major while at a four-year university.
8. You Earn a Degree in Two Years
If you go to a community college first, you will earn a degree in half the time. If you end up not being able to finish a four-year degree, either through a change in career goals or other life circumstances, you will already have an associate degree that will put you at an advantage with potential employers over people who have completed some college, but with no degree. If you decide to continue your education at a later date, you can transfer the credits you earned for your two-year degree to a four-year degree program.
At the end of the day, most employers don't care what college you earned your degree from, or if you earned a two-year degree before earning your Bachelor’s degree. They only care that you have a degree in a field relevant to the particular position for which you are applying. After you have been working for a few years, experience matters much more than your education anyway with most employers. Enrolling at a community college before making the jump to a four-year university can save you a lot of money in the long run. Community colleges also offer a lot more flexibility in earning your degree and makes quality education more attainable for students who may otherwise be unable to get a higher education.
© 2017 Jennifer Wilber
Kathy Burton from Florida on February 07, 2018:
I did community college first. It also opened some doors for me by accessing a scholarship I would not have received otherwise. So community college was great for me. I did go on to get a Masters Degree in Social Work. Great article Much needed information or people.
Jennifer Wilber (author) from Cleveland, Ohio on December 26, 2017:
I went to community college first, then transferred to a 4-year program.
Alexander James Guckenberger from Maryland, United States of America on December 26, 2017:
I am attending a local community college myself.