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If I could change one thing about my college experience, it would be how I began. At age 17, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I jumped into an expensive, private junior college I thought would impress everybody and give me the “college experience.” A year later, feeling jaded and confused, I transferred to a school I swore I would never attend — my hometown community college.
I felt like a failure when I went to community college, but it was one of the best decisions I made. The private, all-girls school I attended first made me question everything that college stood for. We were paying $25,000/year to take gen eds and sleep in a dorm with no air-conditioning! It was a waste of money and my time. Not to mention, I was not prepared for the college lifestyle at age 17.
The most common piece of advice I tell high school students and my co-workers pursuing a higher education is to start at community college, no matter what. If you are considering attending a fancy private school right out of high school, I urge you to reconsider.
1. Community College is Cheaper
I went to four colleges during undergrad. The only one that didn’t leave me with student loans was community college. Whether you believe it or not, student loans suck and will impact your life after graduation. Community college is the cheapest option for earning general education requirements. In a time when you may not be sure where you are trying to go, why add debt to the confusion?
2. Community College Offers Many of the Same Opportunities as a University
Everything I did at a four-year institution was available at my community college. Granted, I focused on working full-time while in community college because I was money hungry. Had I wanted to join a club, however, I could. Most community colleges offer a full range of athletics and intramural sports, every type of club under the sun, and all the same classes you might take at a large university. Just scroll through a two-year college’s course catalog and you’ll realize everything is available to you for a lower pricepoint.
You should also note that many professors that teach at the big universities also teach online and evening courses at the surrounding community colleges. This is a common way for them to earn more money, and you still get the best instructors in the area.
3. Most Courses are Transferrable
Every course I have taken at community college has transferred to a four-year university. I have transferred numerous times, so this is something I am experienced in. Calculus, General Chemistry, Human Anatomy, and Intro to Philosophy are all the same everywhere you go. You may have classes that are degree specific, i.e. Developmental Psychology or specific religion courses that won’t transfer exactly as they are, but they will count as electives towards your chosen program.
Don’t use fear of classes transferring as a reason not to attend community college.
4. Community College Offers More Flexibility
When attending community college, you have the flexibility to attend in-class sessions or take online courses. Nearly every community college offers classes online, with many offering full Associate degrees. This allows you to work full-time and save money for when you do transfer to that big university or small private school you’ve been eyeing.
I was able to work full-time and attend distance-learning courses in my small town about 40 miles from the actual college campus. This helped me save money and taught me how to be an adult well before my peers. There’s nothing quite like learning in the comfort of your own home.
Not a fan of 8am classes? Online courses might work well for you. The tradional college experience isn’t for everyone. Community college gives you the best of both worlds with flexible options.
5. Smaller Class Sizes
You don’t have to pay big money at a private college for small class sizes and an intimate setting. I never attended a class with more than 30 people in it, and more often than not, there were only 10-15 students. This allowed for more one-on-one time with our professors and a better learning environment.
College doesn’t have to be pricey. Community college is a low-cost way to earn your degree without ever taking out a student loan. The best degree isn’t always at the most expensive school. Check your options, do some research, and think long-term before jumping into the “traditional college experience.”
What are your thoughts? Have you attended community college? Are you considering it?