An In-Depth Guide to Choosing the Right Community College
Reasons to Choose Community College
Certainly getting a two-year degree is much faster than a four-year education, but there are other features of community college that make this option more time-efficient. First, class schedules are often more flexible at community colleges, so you might be able to sneak in extra credit hours or take a class or two over the summer. Community colleges also allow you to explore a broad range of subjects through transferrable credit hours, so when you decide what you want to major in, you can head to a four-year institution with a more direct focus.
Most community colleges around the country have much more flexible admission requirements than four-year universities. If you want to go to college, but your high school transcript is less than stellar, a community college might be the place to hone your academic skills before switching to the university level. In addition, you save time in the admission process, since community colleges generally offer much faster enrollment than other schools.
Many community colleges work directly with the universities in the area to ensure a smooth transfer process for students. Some four-year schools even offer priority to students transferring from a local community college, even over those who are transferring from another four-year institution.
Once you have decided that community college is the right choice for your individual situation, the next question becomes, which school will meet your needs the best? To find the answer, you must first explore all the options available within the community college environment.
Types of Community Colleges
Four-Year Degree Programs
Recently, some community colleges have begun offering four-year bachelor’s degrees right on their campuses. For example, a New York Times article reports on Miami Dade College, formerly Miami Dade Community College, which now offers a limited number of bachelor degree programs to students at community college prices.
For-Profit Community Colleges
Another recent trend on the community college front is the for-profit, two-year college. These schools have become especially popular in recent years as many community colleges have been unable to handle a larger student load from displaced workers and high school graduates who cannot afford university tuition rates. However, for-profit schools are not all created equal, and many have been accused of promising career opportunities and other benefits that are simply not realized by the time graduation arrives.
Some community colleges are now working directly with four-year universities in the area to make the transfer process as smooth as possible for community college students wanting to expand their education at a four-year university. These transfer colleges will ensure the credits earned by students will follow them to the four-year college, making their pursuit of a bachelor degree more efficient and affordable.
Community colleges all feature their own unique advantages that cater to students looking for a specific type of education on the college level. By understanding the various features available with community colleges, it becomes much easier to select a school customized to your specific education and career goals.
- Radiation Therapists
- Diagnostic Medical Sonographers
- Nuclear Technicians
- Aerospace Operating Technicians
- Registered Nurses
- Commercial Pilots
- Dental Hygienists
Requirements for Admission
Different community college may have varying admission requirements, so get the specifics before applying to the community college in your area. Although most have an “open door” policy, meaning they are prepared to admit all applicants, the testing process and forms required for admission may vary. A meeting with an advisement counselor is a good option to learn more about the admission process, as well as financial aid options for which you may qualify.
Degree or Certificate Programs
Community colleges offer both associate degree and certificate programs in various fields, so make sure the college you choose provides the degree or certificate you need to move into your professional industry of choice. As mentioned earlier, some schools are also now offering bachelor degrees in a limited number of study fields, giving students an even broader range of career qualifications to choose from.
If your goal at community college is to eventually transfer to a four-year university and earn a bachelor degree, find out if the community college you choose has a transfer agreement with any of the universities in your area. A transfer program ensures the credits you take in community college move with you to the university. It also provides you with access to an advisor who will help you create a course of study between the two schools that will help you earn your bachelor degree in the shortest possible time.
Flexibility in Scheduling
Community colleges usually offer greater flexibility in course schedules to ensure students can work college around a job or family life. Evening and weekend courses are not unusual with many of these schools to allow students from all walks of life the chance to earn a degree. Some also provide online studies that can be completed at home around a student’s busy schedule.
Cost of the Program
Community colleges on average charge much less for their credits than four-year colleges. While tuition rates are often set by the state or community college district, other expenses like fees may vary from school to school. Know how much your college experience will cost before you officially enroll so you can plan your budget accordingly.
Since community college is generally used as a springboard for a career or additional education, sufficient advising services are essential to ensure students stay on the right track throughout their community college experience. Students who need additional academic or financial help also benefit from the knowledge and experience of advisors on campus. Look for a community college that provides ample advisors who are readily available to answers student needs as they arise.
Job Placement Services
If your goal at community college is to land a good job after graduation, job placement services are an essential feature to look for. Many community colleges work directly with the industries in their community to ensure the training they provide is customized to the needs of local companies. These schools usually work directly with companies as well to place students into internships or entry-level positions right after graduation.
Steps to Finding a Good School
Locating a school that offers all of the features listed above is a process to be sure. Consider the following steps to take to ensure the college you choose has all the necessary features you are looking for:
Check Out Industry Opportunities
Sit In On Some Classes
For more guidance, read our 5-step article on choosing a community college. The bottom line is that the more time you spend researching community colleges, the more likely you will be to choose the best school for your personal and professional needs.