The Community College Advantage
When we think about college, many of us think the same thing: enroll in a four-year program, complete your classes, and graduate, all at one university. This is a great plan for college, but there are other plans that may suit your needs more, both financially and situationally. Many students start their college careers at community colleges. These are accessible, affordable schools that have programs for certificates and associate degrees. An associate degree is a two-year degree that leads into a bachelor’s if you need it to. An associate degree covers much of what the first half of a bachelor’s will, and the transition from an associate to a bachelor’s is often seamless.
Flexibility of Community College
Community colleges are much more accessible than four-year universities. They often have open and rolling admission, meaning that anyone can apply at any time, and everyone will be accepted. Open admission also gives you the opportunity to test out of many classes needed for an associate degree. If your first language is English, you can likely test out of basic English requirements. If you are proficient in a non-English language, you can also test out of the foreign language requirement for a degree. Similar tests are available for STEM and humanities classes. If you were an advanced student in high school, you can see which classes you can test out of. You can save some time and money!
Rolling admission juxtaposes admission to more competitive four-year universities. At four-year schools, there’s a months-long application process and strict deadlines that may prevent you from going to a particular school. At community college, you can apply whenever and start at the beginning of any semester, regardless of your academic background. Just do your assignments on time, show up to class, and the associate degree will be yours in no time!
A Pathway to A Bachelor’s Degree
An associate degree is an excellent pathway to a bachelor’s degree. It is often more generalized and fundamental than a bachelor’s but checks many of the same boxes as a bachelor’s degree. An associate degree can get you into bachelor’s programs that a high-school diploma may not, and it might shave two years off of a bachelor’s program. This may sound like additional work and cost, but an associate degree is often more affordable than half of a bachelor’s degree, and it can provide many job opportunities.
Working While Attending Community College
In terms of job opportunities, an associate degree can vastly improve a resume while you’re working on your bachelor’s. For example, an associate degree in business can help you land entry-level managerial positions at a large variety of companies. Community colleges are also more likely to provide night and weekend programs. Going to school during your time off may sound unpleasant, but this provides the opportunity to work full time while attending school. Making money and getting your education at the same time will minimize student debt in the future.
Working full time while attending a four-year program is possible, but the scheduling will be complicated. Because four-year colleges schedule their classes during the day (more often than not), your work schedule or your college schedule will have to change in order to accommodate both. With the associate degree plan, you save money, find job opportunities, and get two graduation ceremonies. Community colleges will also conform to your busy schedule if you need to work.
If the community college advantage doesn’t appeal to you, a four-year program at a four-year university is still a great choice. Four-year programs provide many networking advantages over the associate-to-bachelor’s plan, and they conform more closely to the traditional college experience many seek.
Transferring to a Four-Year University
Students that transfer schools halfway through their college career may close certain doors at a particular university. You may no longer be accepted to a fraternity/sorority as a junior at a new school, and you will have to make new friends as a junior among many students who have been friends since they were freshmen. These are social setbacks, but they can be overcome. College will give you endless opportunities to make friends, and a determined student can make up the networking difference in those final two years.
There are many advantages to both the four-year plan and the split two-year plan. A budget minded, flexible student can thrive within the associate-to-bachelor’s plan, while an extroverted student may feel cut off from their fellow students. If you’re looking for a more budget-friendly, multi-faceted college experience, the community college advantage may be exactly what you need.
Author: Hastings Davin