I have really talked a lot about community colleges (CC), and in this particular article, I’m going to talk about the cons of going to community college as well as the pros. Many students are curious about this option but may not be sure about the advantages and disadvantages, and what they should think about when it comes to community colleges. I’ll discuss more about community colleges and all the important stuff you need to know to help you make a good decision.
What is a Community College?
Well, in the US, once you are done with high school and want more education, you have two paths. One, go straight to a four-year college and work towards a bachelor’s degree. Or two, start at a community college. This is a two-year college. After that, if you are aiming for a bachelor’s degree, you move to a four-year college. You join in their third year and continue to the fourth year. This means you spend the first two years at a community college and the next two at a four-year college, covering your junior and senior years. You can check out this article I have written about spending 2 years at community college and transferring to university.
Cons of Going to Community College
I’m going to start with the cons, and then the pros. But first, if you are going to CC with the mindset of transferring to a university in the future, make sure you begin the preparation from your day 1. You want to make really good grades because there are no guarantees that your preferred university will accept your transfer request. Anyways, that’s about that. So, let’s look at the cons of going to community college.
1. No Financial Aid When You Transfer
You save money in the first two years by going to community college, which seems cheaper for getting a bachelor’s degree. But, when you switch to a four-year college, you don’t get financial aid. Transfer students usually don’t get this aid because it’s mostly for first-year students. So, while you’ve saved in the first two years, you end up paying the full amount for the third and fourth years.
On the other hand, if you start at a four-year college, you can get financial aid for all four years. This might end up being cheaper than paying full price for the last two years. For example, you might spend $10,000 for the first two years at a community college, then $60,000 to $70,000 per year at a four-year college. But if you start at a four-year college, you could get a 50% discount, making it $30,000 per year instead of $60,000.
So, you don’t really save as much as you think by starting at a community college. At a four-year college, you could get more than 50% financial aid or even full aid. There’s no chance of this if you start at a community college. If you have a strong application, you could even study for free at a four-year college.
2. You Will Not Get a University Experience
That’s right, you won’t get the typical university experience, and that’s mostly true. However, you can still shape your own experience. If you are into partying, you’ll easily find that in your area, no worries there. If meeting new people is your thing, you can do that at a Community College, though you won’t be living in a dorm.
Some people don’t even prefer sharing a dorm. I’m fine with it myself. I had enough of that experience while studying abroad, and that was enough for me. I like to stay in my room, have my own space, see my family, get my work done, and have time away from people. It’s not that I don’t like socializing, but it helps me focus on my studies.
Sure, you might miss out on the big first-year parties, but you are also saving money by not paying for them. Even if you don’t get that experience at college, if you really want it, you can find it elsewhere. So, don’t worry too much about missing out.
3. A Community College Isn’t Prestigious Compared to a University
Let’s talk about the reputation of community colleges. They are not seen as prestigious as four-year colleges. You should check out my article about the brutal realities of transferring from a CC to a university. People often view CCs as places for students who had difficulties in their studies or couldn’t get into a four-year college right away. This is their chance. However, if you are aiming for a top university in the future, starting at a community college can be tough. They might wonder why you didn’t start at a four-year college immediately after high school. So, you are dealing with this not-so-great image, and you need to work extra hard to strengthen your application.
4. It Is Easier to Lose Track and Motivation
I think this con of going to community college is mainly because you have to carve out your own path. For example, if you want to major in Marketing, you need to be sure that the college you choose will accept all your courses.
You must stay on top of things because once you lose track, it’s all on you. Nobody else will keep you in check. Since you are on your own, you don’t have friends or groups to discuss your experiences with, making it easier to lose focus and motivation. Especially when you’re at home, you might be tempted to watch TV instead.
But this situation gives you a real-life understanding of balancing home life with school or work. It’s a very realistic experience. In the end, you’ll likely develop a stronger work ethic. While these are downsides, they can be turned into advantages if you learn to manage your time and goals well.
5. Most Community Colleges Are Commuter Schools
Most community colleges don’t have dorms, so you’ll need to find a place to live off campus. I chose community college because I had family nearby and could stay with them to get to school every day. In Florida, for example, you really need to have your own way to travel to and from college, not just relying on public transport, because it’s not as good as in places like New York. In New York, community college is easier to get to; you can just take a train. That’s a good choice. But remember, since most community colleges are for students who travel from home, you need to figure out how to get there every day.
6. Community Colleges Tend to Focus on Preparing You for Universities
Many community colleges have partnerships with state public schools. This means you often have a connection and preparation for college, and it’s quite likely you can transfer to a public school.
Public schools cost less than private ones, but you should think about your goals. If you aim high, it might be a different path for you, especially regarding the reputation aspect. Some community colleges are working on improving their reputation and becoming more prestigious. However, the general view of community colleges in the academic world and in terms of college admissions is that they are easier to get into, and choosing them might be seen as a sign of weaker academic performance—this is the stigma that drives community colleges.
Pros of Community College
But of course, we need to talk about the pros of a community college as well.
1. Community College college is Cheaper
At first glance, it seems cheap, especially in the first two years, but that’s pretty much where the benefit of a community college ends.
The community college costs a lot less. So, if a four-year college costs between $30,000 and $70,000 a year, then for community college, it’s around $10,000 or maybe $12,000 a year. It’s a lot cheaper, and you might even get a discount. You save a bunch of money in the first two years, and then you only have to pay the full amount for the third and fourth year. It seems like a good deal, doesn’t it? It’s less expensive, more affordable, and also easier to get into.
2. Good Professor Interaction
While attending Community College, you will get to interact a lot with your professors because the classes are small. This does really help because it means you are more likely to get recommendation letters for scholarships or jobs. For me, this was a big plus because I like getting to know my professors. I wouldn’t want to spend a lot of money on a private school, and I’m not a fan of large classes like at UCs or state schools. So, choosing Community College for the chance to know your professors in a smaller class setting is a big advantage. This is the first thing I wanted to share—not anymore.
3. Community Colleges Offer You More Flexibility
So, it’s cheaper and easier to start with. You can still transfer to a four-year college to complete your bachelor’s degree. It’s quite flexible too. This means if you’re working while studying, you can adjust your class schedule to fit. There are many benefits.
Whether you are an international student or living in the United States, when you are considering your educational choices after high school, community colleges can be a great help. They offer a way to continue your education. For international students, it might be tough to put together a complete application for a four-year college. It takes a lot more effort. In this case, a community college can be a practical choice since it’s easier to apply and get admitted with less effort.
4. It is Easier to Get Into
Four-year colleges are quite different from each other. Some are very hard to get into, especially the top ones, while others are much easier, and you might even have a 100% chance of getting accepted. When you look at your own credentials and application, you might find some really good universities where it’s easy for you to get in.
On the other hand, community colleges are more open to accepting students, typically 100% acceptance rate. All you need to do is meet their requirements, send in your application, and you are very likely to be accepted. This is appealing to many students, including international students and those who may not be strong in English. You still need to prove your English proficiency and provide TOEFL scores, but the requirements are not as high as they are for four-year colleges.
If you are an international student struggling with grades or other academic issues, these aren’t as significant for community colleges and won’t be as critical as they would be for a four-year college. Once you’re in a community college, you can study hard and then have a better chance of transferring to a four-year college in your third year to complete the remaining two years of study.
5. Favorable Admission Deadlines
You can start by applying to a four-year college. If things don’t work out, remember that community colleges are a good backup since their application deadlines are usually later. This way, you keep your options open.
If there’s an issue with the four-year college, a community college is still there for you to continue your education. However, I really suggest trying for a four-year college first. It’s often easier to get financial aid there, which can save you a lot of money and reduce student debt. Sometimes, you might not have any debt at all. Moreover, a degree from a four-year college is usually considered more prestigious and can make job hunting easier later on.
So, there you go with the cons of going to community college. Of course, I have also provided you with the major pros. If you start at a four-year college, you avoid the hassle of transferring after two years. So, give the four-year college a shot for these benefits. But if it doesn’t work out, community college is a solid plan B. It’s a cheaper option for the first two years and it’s generally easier to get into, so you have a good chance of being accepted.