Figure out if community college is the right move for your education, your career, and your life.
How to Tell if Community College is Right for You
So you’re ready to make a big decision about your next step in life – is community college the right choice for you?
A community college offers students a wide range of benefits and is a good choice for many people. Some students go through a lot of preparation to determine what they want to do after they graduate and where they want to go in life. Adults too may find themselves at a cross roads where they have the option to return to college for a degree or further training. Thousands of students, in every state, enroll in community college and find the experience to be very worthwhile. Community college might be especially good for you if you can answer yes to any of these points.
1. Cost is a major factor in your decision.
Tuition is usually a lot cheaper at a community college than it is at a four year college or university. You can save money by taking classes at a community college, and even if you transfer on to another college for a higher degree, those first few years of education will cost you less at the community college. Two years at a four year school could cost you $40,000 but those same two years at a community college may cost half that or less! This option is great for recent high school graduates, adult students, and returning college students who need more education and training but do not have a lot of funds.
Mabel G. Freeman, PhD. And Interim Vice President/Student Affairs at Columbus State Community College, knows the value that community colleges present to students. “A community college is a pathway to a job or to a four-year degree. Community colleges provide students with the flexibility of in-person or digital courses combined with the low tuition costs and small size classes taught by faculty; this can be very appealing for both high school and adult students.”
2. Your grades are not the best that they could be.
A major factor that draws many students to community college is if their grades beforehand have not been the best. If you did not live up to your expectations in college, you may not have the grades needed to get into a program at a four year university, but most community colleges have lower grade requirements or offer classes to help boost grades in common weak areas such as writing and math. Taking a year or two at a community college will give you a chance to improve your grades so you can get into the college program you want later on down the road.
Dr. Jamillah Moore, Chancellor at Ventura County (CA) Community College District had this to say about how community colleges help students overcome poor grades and helps students prepare for their future. “A community college is a good option if your high school grades are not strong and if you’re not sure you are ready for college. In order to succeed in college, you need a solid foundation in reading, writing and math skills. Unless you build them in high school, you will need to take basic skills courses -- or catch-up courses -- when you arrive at a community college. “
3. You need training that is very job-specific.
At a community college, your college classes are usually tailored for a very specific career goal. If you are going for a two year degree, you will spend two years taking classes that apply to your major, rather than spending up to two years of a four year degree on classes such as math, history, and science that do not apply to your major. When you want or need to get trained and get into the workforce quickly, a two year degree from a community college is likely the best option for you.
Professor Eileen Radetich is a highly praised leader in the English Department at Camden County College and has seen firsthand how community college classes can help students prepare for their chosen careers. “Students can take smaller-sized classes with top-notch, caring professors who teach and guide students through those often-feared general requirements. Once students have completed these courses, they can focus much more closely and more confidently on their majors - majors that most likely develop from being a part of the community college sphere."
Dr. Marilyn Fore, senior vice president at Horry Georgetown Technical College says certain technical expertise is only available at community colleges. “Technical expertise on the most current equipment differentiates graduates of community colleges. For example, HGTC criminal justice graduates work one-on-one with faculty in small classes on equipment so advanced that most local law enforcement agencies don’t even have it. So, when our graduates join the workforce—not only in criminal justice, but also in other fields—they’re poised to help employers advance technologically in unexpected ways. That’s how our graduates add value to the workforce.”
A technical or career school presents another option for this time of career path as well. Debbie Diaz of Florida Technical College says that these types of schools can provide hands-on guidance. “FTC Career Services department will be very hands-on with the student from the beginning to prepare and get the student ready for job placement after graduation.”
4. You’re not ready to be fully on your own.
Many high school grads are not ready to leave the nest as soon as they graduate. Community college is a great stepping stone to help you get the feel for college life and what life on your own is like. Being able to have the comforts of home and still have a security net can help many students make the transition and be successful when they do go on to a four year university or enter the workforce and choose a career.
Dr. Jamillah Moore also had this to say about classes offered at community colleges, “You can set a flexible schedule, as you can attend full time or part time, and you can schedule your courses around home and work commitments. “
5. You need a flexible schedule.
When someone has to balance work, family, school, and other obligations, community colleges offer the flexibility that is needed and can offer the flexibility of day, or weekend classes, full or part time enrollment, and in class or online class options. Your credits will also transfer to other degrees so that you can continue on with your education.
Professor Kelly Jackson, Academic Skills Mathematics Department at Camden County College has experienced students struggling to juggle all of their responsibilities and has seen the benefits community college offers. “Students enrolled in high school can register for community college courses. Evening, weekend, online and summer classes make it possible for high school students to give college a try and earn a few credits while they're at it. If it isn't for you and you decide to go to a four-year school, the credits will likely transfer there.”
Making the Decision
Still struggling to find the answer? One popular tool potential students can use to help them discover possible areas they could study is the Latitude test. Developed by YouScience, Latitude is basically a test that is comprised of many mental exercises and personality questions that are helpful to show students their strengths, ideal majors and best career choices.
Philip Hardin, CEO of YouScience speaks about the options that community colleges give students. “Community colleges are excellent at giving students options – whether they continue their education to achieve a bachelor’s degree, or go right into the workforce. Latitude gives them an understanding of their natural abilities, interests, and best fit careers in a way that helps students make more informed choices. It is an invaluable tool for any student heading down the community college path.”
Most community colleges offer great opportunities for the right students. As Dr. Marilyn Fore of Horry Georgetown Technical College states, "community colleges are known for their reputation for having smaller classes that allow for more personal faculty contact, are closer to home, offer flexibility and speed of two year degree plans, and have lower tuition costs.”
Only you can determine if a community college is right for you, but for thousands of students in your state, it is their gateway to a better career and better education!