Community colleges are becoming increasingly popular options for college-bound students. They are a great fit for many people from different walks of life and are budget-friendly. When I was in college, I used a local community college to help me gain basic credits while saving money and adding convenience with online courses. While there are both advantages and disadvantages to attending community college, it may help suit your needs and be the best educational option for you.
In this post:
1. Total Cost
Community colleges can be up to half or less than the cost of a traditional four-year university. Many community colleges and tech schools also offer scholarships and payment programs that make attending classes affordable for just about any student. However, your textbooks may be as expensive or sometimes slightly more, because many community colleges have special books printed just for their professors.
2. Convenient Locations
Many community colleges are located within a reasonable drive or even in smaller towns. This means that you can live in your hometown and have a pretty easy commute. The community college I attended had campuses across the state, so I could attend classes easily no matter where I lived. Community colleges are designed to be commuter campuses, so they keep that in mind when choosing where to have campuses.
3. Online Classes and Flexible Schedules
Community colleges often have a student body made up of adults with careers, parents, and professionals seeking job training. This means that you will have an array of online classes and schedules that fit with busy lives. It’s often said that community college is getting an education on your own time, and for me that was true. I took courses online and on-campus late at night, which meant I could work at my job and spend time with my family while completing my coursework. If you find that you’re a quick learner, online classes often let you work at your own pace and you can complete work before it’s due. Some locations offer Saturday classes, so you can even squeeze in-class time on the weekends.
4. Career Training
One benefit of community colleges for job seekers is that you’re often getting a degree with a lot of career training. Community colleges offer specialized degrees in medical and mechanical fields, so you will be learning by doing in real-life situations. Once you graduate, your two-year degree can set you up for a long-term career in your chosen field where you may not need a four-year degree. And a recent study shows that community college students actually earn more than those with four-year degrees. You can even talk with a counselor about job placement opportunities through the college.
5. Drawbacks of Community College
Of course, as with any education, there are some drawbacks. The affordable price often means the majors are limited. If you want a degree in something they don’t offer, you won’t be able to get your education at that school, but there are many other schools that may suit your needs. You will probably be graduating with an associate’s degree, which means that you can’t obtain a career in fields where a bachelor’s degree is required, such as teaching. It can set you up, however, for a four-year degree in a field where you need a bachelor’s. I used community college as a way to afford an education at a four-year institute. In some cases, you can graduate with a degree from a community college and use that to work while you earn your bachelor’s degree.
Community colleges are often low-frill campuses. This means you won’t find exercise facilities, cafeterias, sports teams, social hangouts and you may not even have a library. You will likely have to do some leg work on researching outside of school, and coordinating group meetings might require off-campus locations. However, as many schools are modernizing, they are adapting to the needs of students by providing more four-year school-like amenities.
Once you’ve selected your degree path and school, many community colleges offer free online applications. Check the website of your school and sign up, or call a counselor and have them walk you through the process. Sometimes you can enroll and start classes very shortly after you apply, so keep an eye out for any important dates. Community college can be a great way to get your education started and boost your career.