Getting Started at a Community College

If you’re starting to consider the next steps in your life and education, you may be wondering whether going to college is the right path for you. Many students end up enrolling in college right out of high school, due to parental pressures, tradition, or uncertainty as to what other steps he or she might take. But if you’re not entirely sure a four-year college is where you want to be, taking that leap might turn out to be a costly misstep. For students who are on the fence about attending college, starting out at a community college might be the best choice for you.

Why Start There?

Enrolling in a local community college is dramatically less expensive than registering at a four-year college or university. For one, you avoid such costs as room and board; additionally, the cost per credit is significantly less, though fees do vary from location to location. To add to your savings, you will likely shorten your commute, as most community colleges are conveniently located in central areas easily accessible to most county townships. Financial aid is still available to you if you attend community colleges, as are scholarships from a variety of foundations. Attending a community college to begin your college career is a great way to save thousands of dollars while still making an investment in your education.

Another reason students often attend community college before a four-year school is because they are uncertain that college is right for them. Because the financial commitment is less of a burden, students can get a feel for the collegiate environment before committing to an expensive school. At county, you are free to complete your general education requirements – classes like composition, history, and basic sciences – while you dabble in a few different subjects and try to determine what you might like to study. You’ll get a feel for class structure, campus life, and the proceedings of college life. If the environment appeals to you, you can transfer most or all of your credits to a four-year college and pick up as a sophomore or junior. If you decide college is not right for you at this time, you are free to leave without having wasted thousands of dollars.

Even students who are certain their paths include graduating from a four-year college or going to graduate school may decide to start at a community college. Spending the first two years at county to complete general education courses saves them a great deal of money, savings which can be applied to their dream college or university. Staying close to home offers students the opportunity to spend time with family, work more hours to save more cash, and explore other regions and cities with schools to which they may transfer.

Just Keep in Mind…

  • Before you enroll in your county’s community college, examine other options close by. Choose one from which students often transfer to universities, research the helpfulness of the advising team, and be aware of how they handle transfer students’ credits.
  • Remember that all your credits may not transfer. For the best odds, take general education classes that most universities require, such as writing skills, basic math and science, history, and languages.
  • Be sure the logistics of your living situation allow for commuting to school. Do you have access to a vehicle at all times? Is there public transportation you can use? Will your job be flexible to your class schedule?
  • Beginning at county college is in no way a poor reflection of your intelligence or academic dedication. In fact, you may find it to be the smartest decision you ever made.


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