Maybe you’ve heard the benefits of attending community college but you aren’t entirely convinced yet. Let me share my story and tell you how going to a two-year college changed my life.
I DID NOT want to attend community college. My mom basically bribed me into taking the placement test.
In high school, I was a good student, participated in lots of activities, and did everything you were supposed to do on paper. When it came time to apply for colleges, my scope was wide. I applied to in-state, out-of-state, big schools, small schools, and public and private universities. I got a few scholarship offers (including $20,000 from Syracuse University) but nothing remotely covered the full cost of tuition, room and board, or fees. My mom and I were lost on what to do and I really thought my only option was to take out student loans.
One day, during the springtime of my 12th-grade year, she received a flyer in the mail about two scholarships at my local community college for incoming freshmen. I had seen the same flyer at my guidance counselor’s office but didn’t pay it any attention lol. She convinced me to write the scholarship essay and go through the process. Long story short, about three weeks later I had my scholarship interview. Three days after the interview, I received a letter in the mail with my scholarship offer saying my tuition for two years would be fully paid for, my fees would be covered, and I would get a $400 book stipend every semester! A true blessing
There are many pros, and of course some cons, to attending community college. I thought I would be missing out on the college experience and I thought community college was for people who didn’t work hard but those things were completely false. I now believe that it’s an incredibly wise thing to attend community college.
This post is all about the benefits of community college.
1. You receive an incredibly affordable quality education
In 2021-22, the tuition and fees for a full-time student at public two-year institutions was about $3,800, compared with $10,740 at public four-year colleges in the U.S., according to College Board. By attending community college you have the ability to earn a low-cost associate degree, certificate, and/or career training. Federal grants, work-study, and scholarships can all be applied to your community college education. I compare it to shopping at a sample sale for clothing. You’re getting the same designer clothes at more than half the cost and you feel better in the end about buying it.
Students who attend community college also leave with less debt. In 2017-18, only 15% of public two-year college students took out student loans, compared with 43% of public four-year college students. Don’t be like the majority here, avoid student loan debt at all cost.
Related post: 7 Exceedingly Smart Ways to Pay for College
2. You can fulfill your Bachelor prerequisite requirements
Typically, your first two years of college are about completing general education requirements such as English 101 and 102, Biology 101, Mathematics 101, etc. You won’t get into your major coursework until you reach upperclassmen status. The same lower-level classes you would take at a four-year college are the same as the ones offered at community college.
I saw this play out first hand. After my first two semesters at community college, I began seeing old high school classmates start to go to my community college. Most of them went out-of-state Freshman year of college and couldn’t afford it anymore. They transferred to community college and told me that it made no sense for them to pay all that money when the classes they were taking there were the same as the ones at community college. My advice has always been to go straight to community college after high school (unless you get a renewable full-ride at a university).
3. Increased leadership opportunities
During my sophomore year in college, I became editor-in-chief of my school’s newspaper. I never thought something like that would be possible for me. I also served on the student government, was a college ambassador, and was a press assistant when President Obama visited for a speech. Going to community college allowed me to get opportunities faster. The things I was able to achieve directly led me getting a full-ride scholarship to my four-year college when it was time for me to transfer. I really appreciate that I didn’t have to “wait” until I was a junior or senior to enhance my resume.
4. Smaller classroom sizes and invested professors
One of the major advantages of going to a community college is the specialized attention you can receive because the class sizes have fewer students. Instead of sitting in a large lecture hall with over one hundred students, I found most of my classes had no more than 20 students. I was able to form a real connection with my professors and they later wrote really detailed letters of recommendation for me. I also took advantage of the writing center, tutoring, office hours, and workshops.
5. The ability to have a more flexible schedule
Community colleges are more catering to students who work full-time, people with children/single parents, students with disabilities, and veterans or military members. Even before the pandemic, community colleges offered hybrid learning, online classes, weekend classes, and evening classes to fit the schedules of a wide range of students. If you work full or part-time, attending community college might be easier than going to a traditional four-year university.
6. Learning with diverse classmates
Attending community college meant I wasn’t learning in a bubble any more. In high school, everyone is around your same age and most of your lived experiences are the same. Since community college is more of a melting pot, I found that I was learning next to older students, students from other countries, and students who saw the world differently than I had. I loved this so much. Working on group projects with people who brought a different perspective and level of expertise enriched my experience. I also met friends I wouldn’t have made otherwise.
7. It’s an easier transition to college life
If I’m being honest, I wasn’t completely ready for college or to go out in the real world when I graduated high school. And I don’t think the majority of other students are either. Starting at community college allowed me to figure out my learning and studying style, how to balance and organize my time, and gave me space to explore my interests in a lower-stakes environment. I could’ve done this at a four-year college but I think I would’ve wasted time. Since I was able to identify my strength and weaknesses in my first two years of college, I hit the ground running when I transferred and could really succeed during my junior and senior year.
8. Get into your career faster
There are endless opportunities at community college including the ability to take advanced specialized classes. Becoming a dental hygienist, registered medical assistant, radiation therapist, and legal assistant only require an Associate’s require. For me, because I was able to get leadership roles rather quickly, I was able to attend a lot of conferences and network. It was at community college where I landed three internships.
9. Opportunity to improve your grades
Not everyone was the best high school student. I believe community college is an excellent place to turn a new page and focus on improving your transcript. Even if you are currently at a four-year university, it’s still wise to take or re-take some classes at community college, especially if you failed a certain subject or got a low grade.
10. Trade, vocational, and certificate programs
As I wrote in point #8, there are countless jobs that only require two years of higher education. Getting a certificate at community college is an excellent way to get your foot in the door for a new career or to expand your skillset. There are certificate programs for culinary arts, entrepreneurship, licensed practical nursing (LPN), and emergency medical technician (EMT) training.
11. Lower cost of living
The majority of community colleges don’t offer on-campus housing. Although some could see this as a con, I believe it’s great for money-savvy students. Living at home or at a nearby apartment (with roommates) will save you a ton of money compared to the overpriced dorms at universities. There are so many hidden and additional expenses when you go to a four-year college. When you live on campus you are most likely required to purchase a meal plan, billed for activity fees, etc. The main cost, aside from tuition, at community colleges is transportation. (I took the $1 bus for two years and it worked out fine.)
12. Easy admission process
Community colleges don’t require your SAT or ACT scores and you don’t need to submit an essay for admittance. It is incredibly easy to get accepted into community college. However, you are strongly encouraged to fill out and submit your FASFA form so you will be eligible for federal and state financial aid. In addition, for institutional scholarships (like the ones I received), your test scores, an essay, and letters of recommendation may be required.
13. Transfer partnerships with local universities
Wouldn’t it be a dream to attend college for two years at a low cost and automatically be accepted into your state’s top university because you earned an Associate’s degree first? Well, that’s the reality in most states. Community colleges have deals with state four-year colleges that make it easier for community college students to transfer when they complete a certain number of credits. Also, there are so many scholarship opportunities if you go this route. It’s how I was able to get a full-tuition scholarship to the University of Maryland!
*If you are a Maryland student, email or DM me on Instagram and I can share more information.
I hope you learned something from this blog post and can see all the wonderful opportunities community college has to offer people.
This post was all about the amazing benefits of attending community college.