01 May Should You Go to a Community College First?
Community colleges have advantages and disadvantages over traditional 4-year universities. Here are a few factors to consider when choosing which option is best for you.
One of the main differences between community colleges and 4-year schools is admission requirements. Community colleges typically have open admission which means that anyone can attend. This is very beneficial if the grades on your high school transcripts aren’t on par with what 4-year universities require. Community college can also be a stepping-stone to a 4-year university. Once you find out what the transfer requirements are (how many college hours are needed, transfer GPA, etc.) you can put yourself on a path to transfer to your 4-year school of choice.
Tuition and Fees
A second advantage to community college is cheaper tuition. For the same amount of hours taken, tuition at community colleges can be at least 50% cheaper than 4-year schools. If money for college is a great concern, the community college route is definitely one to consider. (Note: Tuition at in-district community colleges will be cheaper than out-of-district or out-of-state community colleges). In addition to tuition and fees at a 4-year school, the cost of room and board is also a consideration if you decide to live on campus.
Since a lot of students work during the day, community colleges often offer flexible class schedules which can include early-morning classes, evening classes and weekend classes. This is beneficial if you work full-time.
If you’re a recent high school graduate, community colleges can be beneficial because there are fewer distractions. Since community colleges typically don’t offer on-campus housing, there are less opportunities for partying and other activities that can often distract you and cause lower grades during your first year.
Community colleges are also beneficial because they help you decide if college is something you really want to pursue at a much cheaper cost than a 4-year school. If you’re unsure whether college is the right decision for you, enroll in a few classes at a community college so you can get a feel for it. How much studying is involved? Are you willing to commit to the amount of studying necessary to succeed? The rule of thumb is 2-3 hours of outside study time per credit hour, which would mean 6-9 hours of outside study time for a standard 3-hour course. Are you able to sit in classes for an extended period of time? Etc
If you are a very social person and you like to be involved in multiple school activities, a 4-year school may be a better option for you. While community colleges often have various academic activities, programs, and celebrations, often times they do not have formal sports teams or as many programs as a 4-year school.
Quality of Education
Another factor to consider is the quality of education you’ll receive at a community college. Some community colleges have very high standards of education and others have lower standards, while some are in the middle. 4-year schools typically have higher standards than community colleges. One way to find out the quality of a community college is to ask a person who has taken courses at the school. Did they feel that the quality of education was good or poor? If that person transferred to a 4-year school, do they feel that the education they received while attending community college adequately prepared them for the transfer? Another avenue is to ask an advisor at the 4-year school you plan to transfer to. What do they think about the community college? This is a great avenue if the transfer university is in the same, or a neighboring, city. Sometimes they’ll be able to provide you with feedback on the quality of the school. They may even suggest alternatives to consider. If you’re a recent high school grad, you could also ask your high school guidance counselor and see if they can provide information or recommendations.
Questions to Ask Yourself
- Do I meet the requirements for admission at a 4-year school?
- Will I be able to afford tuition and fees, and possibly room and board, at a 4-year school?
- Am I prone to distractions that could lead to lower grades?
- Is college something that I really want to do?
- Considering my personality, would I be OK without at a school without a lot of social activities?
- Is the level of education I would receive at a community college comparable with that of a four-year university? Will it prepare me for the transfer to a four-year school?