Each year students graduating high school are forced to face the realities of their next steps. Finding an appropriate college for themselves (and their future career) is one of those steps. Community college is a great alternative to traditional universities for the student who is reluctant to go to college, or who simply doesn’t feel ready.
Community colleges can make the transition to a university much smoother and much more cost-effective than beginning a college career at a traditional university. They offer many different types of educational programs like associate degrees, skilled trade degrees, vocational certificates, and transferable credits to obtain a bachelor’s degree. It gives college students much more flexibility in their decisions.
How do you find the best school for you or your soon-to-be graduate? Follow along.
Plan for College
Transitioning to life as a college student can be a stressful and uncertain time for anyone. There are several ways to help stay engaged in a college career. Whether you are a freshly graduated high school student, or an established adult in the working world who would like to enhance or change their career situation, planning is essential to having a successful college experience.
Community colleges are a great option for non-traditional students. For students who aren’t ready to make a full-time commitment to college, or who have already begun their lives and are going back to fill gaps in their knowledge, community college offers a flexible schedule without committing to moving to a new area. Students are able to take classes at their own pace. They can then decide whether to transfer to a university after they’ve established school as a part of their lives.
The flexibility offered also provides options for students who may have struggled in high school or who took a long break from school. Concordia University reports that as many as 50 percent of adults can’t read at an eighth-grade level. For these individuals, the idea of attending a full-time University may be overwhelming. Community college is a way to ease back into academics while still having all the perks and resources that come from an institute of higher education.
Future Career Plans
We’ve all been asked this question: What do you want to be when you grow up? This can be the hardest question to answer when you are just starting your college career. The best part about community college? You don’t necessarily have to have a future career plan in place.
Instead of spending thousands of dollars at a private university pursuing a degree you may not be sure of, classes at community colleges cost less and allow for the opportunity to explore other options. It allows the opportunity for students to take classes that may not pertain to their declared degree, but that offer insight into other opportunities for them. Community colleges and their relatively low tuition fees allow students to explore what their future could be.
Community college also gives students the time to attend college for credit while selecting the appropriate university for them, without missing out on any of the normal college resources. The curriculum of community colleges can be equally as challenging as a standard University curriculum. Community colleges offer vocational programs and certificate programs that allow graduates to begin their careers almost instantly after they graduate.
Location, Location, location! We have heard this term before and it applies heavily when choosing a college. Attending college in a local area can be more affordable in terms of housing costs. The distance from your hometown to a college will play a major role in what financial burdens are taken on throughout schooling. Most colleges also offer a multitude of locations whether remote or on campus. This helps to extend collegiate services to more areas at a more affordable price.
Community colleges offer remote classes as well as online classes. Meaning that location can actually be a null issue when searching for community colleges. Many private, public, and community colleges offer online courses. Non-traditional students may find it difficult to physically attend classes due to scheduling conflicts. By offering an online option, students can obtain a higher education without relocating or changing their schedule.
There are plenty of reasons that people are skeptical to move on to higher education, but the most common is that college is expensive! Overall students who attend college fair better in the end with finances than those that do not attend college though.
Most students graduate with around $30,000 in debt. For students who begin their higher education at a community college and transfer to a university, the cost is significantly reduced, as the typical degree from a community college costs about $15,120. No matter where you begin, you’ll have access to the same federal and private student loan options to help offset the cost. Choosing to begin your college career at a community college can stretch the loans that you receive even further.
Scholarships, work-study opportunities, and grants can help ease the burden of cost. The good news is there are a ton of scholarships and grants available. Most programs also have a variety of work-study opportunities. Knowing which options of payment for school are available to you is essential to your success in your programs. To find options for yourself, speak to the financial aid office at your chosen community college, or use the US Department of Labor’s scholarship search tool.
If you plan to work while you are in college, community college is hands down the best option for you. Community colleges offer far more night classes and online courses than traditional colleges. It gives you the opportunity to explore topics and interests you may not have otherwise pursued.
The resources offered at a community college are identical to a four-year university. There are resources like academic counseling, career counseling, and research opportunities. Since class sizes are relatively small, often 20 students or less, it allows for more one-on-one time with professors. Since professors at community colleges are not typically doing research on the side, they have more time to devote to students. This allows students to transition from high school to college with more support and attention.
Community college allows students to move at their own pace. Taking a full course load that leads to a graduation date in 4 years is not for everyone. Community colleges allow students to begin their education in a more relaxed and financially acceptable setting. Students get the option to move to their dream school once they have completed two years of education. It allows students to live at home while attending school for the first two years, or for the entirety of their college career.
Far gone are the days where community colleges get a bad reputation in the collegiate world. Now more than ever they are a great option for students who are unsure of their future careers, their transition into college, or even non-traditional students wanting to dip their toe in higher education.
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