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Of the 14.8 million students who earned their bachelor’s degree between 2008 and 2017, 52% attended a community college first. One in four even earned their associate’s before transferring to four-year universities.
Perhaps you’ve considered doing the same thing. Should you go to community college first and get those first two years out of the way? It sounds like a great idea, and it’s certainly the best approach for some students. However, you must consider both sides of the coin.
Understanding the advantages and disadvantages of attending community college first will help you make the most informed choice for your education and future.
The Advantages of Going to Community College First
There are plenty of benefits to going to community college first, and odds are your parents and friends have already listed a few. Below, you’ll find a few more reasons to apply and attend a two-year school before heading on to a four-year one.
The most obvious and convincing reason to attend community college is that it’s cheaper than going to a public or private university. On average, community college students pay $3,400 in yearly tuition, whereas public, in-state students pay an average of more than $10,000. Those attending a private university pay almost four times more, so saving money often requires attending a two-year college, first.
If you plan on working while earning your degree, community college is a great place to start. This option offers more flexibility because community colleges often have more night classes than other universities. They also offer flexible scheduling, so you can work around your job and whatever other responsibilities you might have.
The average class size also tends to be smaller, which is terrific news for students who need more one-on-one engagement with their professors. It’s also easier to pay attention, ask questions, and request feedback when there are fewer people in each class. The more accessible your teachers are, the more likely you’ll be to succeed.
More Work Opportunities
When you finish your time at community college, you’ll likely end up with an associate’s degree. This diploma — and all the networking you participated in whilst attending — opens the door to more career opportunities. You could even score a well-paying job straight out of school so you don’t have to earn a bachelor’s, after all.
The Disadvantages of Going to Community College First
Despite its many advantages, there are some downsides. It’s only fair that you consider these disadvantages, too, before finalizing your decision to attend — or not.
Many students go to community college with plans to attend an out-of-state or accredited university. However, you might be unable to transfer some credits when it’s finally time to transition. While your grades will undoubtedly carry over, credits from out-of-state or unaccredited colleges probably won’t. If this happens, you might have to retake some classes or test out of them to maintain your graduation timeline.
Often, community colleges focus on training for particular industries such as hospitality and automotive repair. If you’re hoping to pursue a liberal arts education or a niche major like cloud computing, you might have trouble finding classes that suit your interests. Thus, school’s curriculum will often determine whether you should attend community college first or go straight to a four-year university.
Missed Social Opportunities
Perhaps you’ve heard your pals call community college boring and, depending on the experience you’re looking for, they might be right. Most people who attend are focused on work and family first, and school is almost an afterthought. There also tend to be fewer clubs and organizations, so you could miss out on more social opportunities than if you attended a ranked university for a full four years.
Because school isn’t a priority for many students in community college, they can often come across as complacent and uninvolved. Consequently, you may end up with distracting or disengaged classmates who frustrate the professor and you. The only glimmer of positivity that might come from this is that the teacher will likely recognize your potential if you speak up and participate in class discussions.
Making the Right Choice
So, should you go to community college first? The answer will depend on your values, goals, personality and what you’re looking for in a college experience. Ultimately, the choice is yours, but it’s best to consider all your options before making a final decision.