What is Community College?

  • Community colleges are institutions of higher learning that offer associate’s degrees and technical certificates.
  • Some community colleges offer bachelor’s degrees in select subjects.
  • They tend to be less expensive compared to 4-year institutions and can help students save thousands of dollars in tuition and fees.

Austin Community College

Community College’s are 2-year postsecondary schools that offer associate’s degrees and sometimes BA’s.

Here’s a rundown of what you can expect at a community college, how they differ from 4-year schools, and the benefits and downsides of attending one.

What is Community College?

A community college is a 2-year public school that offers associate’s degrees and technical certificates to students. Some do have bachelor’s degree programs available, but these are limited in availability and may only be for select areas of study. Most students who attend community colleges are on a two year track program.

Community college can be a gateway to several careers or a stepping stone to a more advanced degree such as a bachelor’s.

How is a Community College Different from a 4-Year College?

4-year colleges and universities offer only bachelor degrees, master’s, and doctorates to its students. Community colleges, while they can offer bachelor’s degrees for select programs, tend to be geared more towards associate’s and technical certificates. And while 4-year programs cover a wide breadth of knowledge and offer specific majors, community colleges tend to be more focused on career skills within a specific job field.

Community colleges also tend to have higher acceptance rates than 4-year institutions, accepting nearly all those who apply. They may not require SAT or ACT scores to attend. In addition, community colleges usually don’t have dorm rooms like 4-year colleges and universities. There are some exceptions, especially at community colleges that have bachelor’s degrees.

Should You Attend a Community College?

Attending a community college is completely up to you and should align with your educational and financial goals! There are several pros and cons to consider when making this decision.


  • It’s much less expensive compared to 4-year colleges, and even if you want to attend a 4-year in the future, you can shave thousands of dollars off your total education cost by taking the first 2 years at a community college.
  • Some careers only require an associate’s degree or technical certificate. A bachelor’s degree may not be necessary.
  • Some community colleges have free tuition!
  • Community colleges keep you local, so you can save more money by staying at home during your education.
  • They can be a great asset if you’re not quite sure what you want to major in, where you want to go to school, or what you want to do after education. They provide opportunities to explore different areas of study while giving you another 2 years to make decisions about a potential bachelor’s degree.

Downsides of attending a community college

  • You lose out on some of the “college experience.” Since you’re likely not living in dorms, it may be harder to make friends or get involved on campus.
  • There generally limited or no meal plans available.
  • Community colleges may be short on clubs and extracurriculars. It may be difficult to find a club you want to join, and resources to create new groups can be limited. Competitive sports are often non-existent.
  • Resources can also be limited. Libraries are not as well stocked as they are at the bigger 4-year institutions, and research opportunities can be hard to come by.
  • Many community colleges do not have the funds to help students pay for colleges like 4-year colleges do. Financial aid can be limited to federal financial assistance, grants, and scholarships outside of the school. You might have to take out loans.

Community colleges can be a great gateway into higher education, especially if you want to save money on your tuition or you’re not quite sure what you want to major in just yet. However, there are also some downsides to attending a community college that could give you pause. Understanding the differences between the various types of colleges and the answers to common community college questions can help you determine the best one for you.

Not sure if you want to attend a community college or 4-year institution? Our College Match tool can help you identify the best schools for your achievements, goals, and career aspirations. Get started for completely free today by signing up!

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