My son is a community college graduate. He chose community college for many reasons, not that his decision was easy. During his college search, we went on plenty of campus tours. We talked about schools close to home. We went to college fairs. We agonized.
Throughout the search process, I reminded him that his choice was his own and that I would be proud no matter what he did. Finally, he blurted, “I don’t want to go away to college!” And he wasn’t alone. According to the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), community colleges awarded 839,855 associates degrees and 549,000 academic and proficiency certificates in the 2016-2017 academic year.
Many of the reasons my son chose community college may make sense for you too. Maybe you took time off after high school and now realize that more skills often means more opportunity. Or perhaps you dislike your job and see a certificate or associate’s degree as a means of leaving it behind. Whether you’re considering community college for financial, academic, or career-oriented reasons, it’s a great experience to have under your belt.
My son’s high school encouraged the traditional college experience, going as far as to push him towards a community college in Iowa that has dorms. But he wasn’t ready. He struggled with his emotions and behavior throughout his academic career, and despite his growth, being on his own away from home just wasn’t in the cards for him at 18 years old.
If you feel you need more significant emotional support than a four-year college experience typically provides, community college is a bridge. You’ll be more likely to know other students at your local campus, which can help lessen the stress of a new environment. In some cases, you may not even have to leave home. Community colleges offer online, in person, and hybrid classes so that you can choose your preferred method of learning.
I used a credit card to pay for my son’s tuition, which I was able to pay for in full at the end of the month. As a single mom, that meant a lot. According to the Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT), the average cost of attending public two-year colleges was $3,435 during the 2016-2017 academic year, while in-state students at public four-year colleges paid approximately $9,410.
If you’re paying an excessive amount of money per class, you’ll be less likely to take something that doesn’t fit into your four-year plan. At a community college, you may feel inclined to enroll in a class just because it seems interesting. Take a dance class. Nurture a knack for photography. Learn a foreign language. Who knows what you’ll discover?
Do you want to spend tens of thousands of dollars a year wandering around campus with no goal in mind? Probably not. By taking classes at a community college, you can figure it your long term plan and move on.
My son initially thought he wanted to be a graphic designer. When he realized that this path might not be the right one, he took a semester off from community college and returned to get his associate’s in general studies. I wasn’t concerned because I knew he was figuring out his life. He felt a lot less pressure moving at your own pace instead of the pace of his initial peer group.
Some careers don’t require a four-year degree. These are just a few of the two-year and certificate programs my local community college offers:
Some schools have a specific focus, such as technology or health careers, and will offer programs within their specializations. Many community colleges are plugged into their surrounding communities and will have opportunities for internshipsor apprenticeships that are in your field and close to home.
Is it necessary to pay $4,000 for English 101? Not exactly, especially if an English major isn’t your goal. If you plan to complete your general education requirements as a community college student, find out ahead of time which colleges will accept transfer credits from your school and which classes will transfer. General academic credits typically will and certificate-based credits will not.
Community college is an academic bridge between high school and a four-year university. It gives you a chance to discover what being in college is like and the requirements of students. This transition can be especially tough for first-generation students, who the AACC indicates make up 29 percent of those enrolled in community colleges.
Within this demographic, basic information regarding leaving home, living in a dorm, or a newfound lack of support isn’t passed down from parents. At community college, this struggle typically isn’t an issue.
If your high school GPA is less than perfect, chances are you’re probably not cut out for an Ivy League school. While poor grades can make the next step of your academic career feel overwhelming, community college is a feasible way to clean up your scholarly act, especially if you have plans to transfer to a four-year college later on. Think of it as a killer college essay: “I was a high school goof off who turned my act around and got straight As in community college.”
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