Considering Community College After High School? Here are the Pros + Cons
Categories: For Students, For College Students, For High School Students, Blog
Graduating high school and figuring out what your next steps are can be overwhelming. In high school, you probably felt like you were held by the hand and led every step of the way. Then bam—you graduate, and suddenly the responsibility falls onto your lap.
It’s easy to get caught up in what everyone else’s plans and goals are after high school – whether it be attending a four-year institution, joining the workforce, or going to a specialized trade school or bootcamp. Your opportunities are endless, but there’s one option that might not be on your radar – community college. Let’s talk about going to community college after high school and weigh the pros and cons of a community college journey.
The Pros + Cons of Community College for High School Students
As the stigma surrounding community colleges continues to fade, many students explore their options before jumping into a 4-year degree program. Students are now starting to take notice of the abundance of the hidden gems community college has to offer. It’s no wonder there have been so many recent community college student success stories!
There are major benefits and opportunities that community college has to offer. Even though there are some nuggets of truth in the hilarious sitcom Community, a few things are missing. Like any other higher education path, there are things to consider before deciding whether or not community college is the right choice for you. Let’s fill some of those holes in.
You can save money.
Pursuing higher education isn’t cheap, and tuition continues to increase every year.
The cost of college tuition varies depending on where you live and if you plan to go to college in-state, out-of-state, public, or private. For certain, community college may be more affordable than 4-years of traditional college, which is one of the reasons why many students decide to explore going to a community college after high school.
When going to community college first then planning to transfer to a four-year college, you can save thousands of dollars your first two years of school, which can add up. Some 4-year university students with dual enrollment at a community college can knock out some of their general education classes rather than take them at their university. You can save money and learn how to manage and budget money with less pressure while you’re still navigating other newfound responsibilities.
Community colleges tend to have less complicated admission policies.
The majority of community colleges have minimal administration requirements. Many community colleges have an “open-door” academic policy, meaning they will allow students to enroll regardless of their academic resumes.
Although a few community colleges will ask for test scores and report cards, they typically don’t determine a student’s eligibility for admission. For the most part, as long as you have a high school diploma or something equivalent to a GED, you are welcome to attend community college after high school.
Going to community college first gives you the chance to start your new academic journey with a clean slate. There are many transfer success stories of students continuing their schooling at a 4-year university.
You can take advantage of being a big fish in a small pond.
The difference between the number of students on campus from high school to college is drastic. It can be overwhelming for small-town folks with populations less than the universities themselves.
The number of students on campus varies by school, but the size is generally bigger than you would see at a high school. This transition could make students feel like a small fish in a big pond. Did you know that the University of Central Florida has the biggest enrollment size of over 70,000 students?! That’s a larger population than some cities.
The campus, class size, and student body will likely be smaller than a 4-year university when going to community college. College campuses are filled with lecture halls with hundreds of students and one professor, making it more challenging to network with your professor.
At a community college, you typically have the opportunity to get personal attention in classes, and other services can be more accessible. The community college route makes it easy to take advantage of resources such as scholarships since there are usually fewer applicants, so many people decide to go to community college after high school. Let’s also not forget about how much easier it is to find parking on campus and be able to spend less time late sprinting to class!
It’s an easier transition to college and adult life.
If we could all agree on one thing, it’s that your 18th birthday does not turn on some magical switch that tells you everything you need to know about adulting. Many of us have had our decisions made for us throughout our 13-14 years in school. Suddenly, we graduate and get thrown into the real world, expecting to make the right decision.
For an easier transition to college, community college can help give you more time not only to be close to home but also more time for development and exploration. Students change their majors as many as six times! As students, we’re told that selecting “undecided” or “undeclared” on your college applications means it’s deficient. We’re expected to know the right college and which major is the best for you even before you graduate high school, with little opportunity to explore.
Going to community college after high school gives you more time to decide on your major and find what you’re passionate about, making it easier to learn about the different options and possibilities available.
Options after community college are virtually limitless!
Some students go to community college for special training programs and bootcamps, then start a higher-level program, which allows them to continue their education at a trade school, or immediately go into the workforce. Other students decide to transfer to a 4-year college.
The beauty of going to community college after high school is the support you’re able to receive. Many students take the community college route with intentions of transferring to a 4-year institution. It’s likely the community college you’re thinking about attending offers bridge programs and transfer centers.
Transfer centers are helpful because staff members can help you build a general education plan for your time at community college and make sure you fulfill the requirements needed to apply for transfer. They are also there to help you understand your options, educate you on what schools are best for you, provide assistance in the application process, and more!
Missing out on the traditional “college experience.”
One thing the sitcom Community taught us is that the community college experience is unique. The traditional college experience we all know typically consists of moving out on your own, living on campus in dorms, joining Greek life, and so on. Community colleges have clubs and organizations too, but most schools do not make campus life an inherent part of their school experience. It’s not to say it’s impossible to find campus life in a community college!
The good news, though, is if you plan to transfer to a university for your junior year, there is generally an ample amount of organizations, committees, and resources you can join! Keep in mind, some students feel the transfer transition can be quite challenging. While most students attending a university have been there since freshman year, transferring your junior year can lead to you feeling like a fish out of water. As a transfer student, it’s important to take the initiative to integrate into campus life smoothly.
The credits you earn at community college aren’t always guaranteed to transfer.
The credits you earn at community college should be carefully cross-referenced by the school you intend to transfer to. There have been many incidents of students missing a few credits and prerequisites, which can push them back from transferring another year.
It’s necessary for you to take the initiative and talk to your counselors, visit your transfer centers, and ask about resources to ensure you are on the right track to transferring.
Community colleges’ name value may not be as impressive to employers compared to big-name colleges.
Depending on the field you are going into after graduation, an associate’s degree might not appear as credible compared to a bachelor’s degree on your resume. Because most community colleges don’t hold programs beyond two years, obtaining a bachelor’s degree is typically done by transferring. If you’re able to do so, the initial concerns fade away with your transferred university credentials.
Some school names have higher prestige than others. With that said, employers may perceive attending a university as a preference over community college. Keep in mind other components on your resume, such as your work experience and certifications, are also important factors.
There are usually not as many programs and degrees compared to universities.
Professors at community colleges are just as qualified as professors at universities. Though typically, there are limited curriculums in comparison to most universities. Many community colleges have areas of specialization that students may gravitate to for specific programs to make up for this. To earn a 4-year degree, it’s likely you will have to transfer elsewhere after achieving the standard two-year associate’s degree.
Community College Resources
Now that you’ve read about the pros and cons of community college, be sure to research resources in your area for different community college routes available. Find out what community college campuses are near you and what programs they offer. With over a thousand community colleges across the nation, so many have been featured for outstanding awards.
We get it – it can be challenging to decide what decision is best for you. You are likely experiencing a blend of mixed feelings, whether it be sadness, relief, fear, accomplishment, or confusion. Just remember, it’s all completely normal. As you start this new life transition, it may be worth considering keeping community college on your radar.