Pick the Right Community College in 9 Easy Steps
How to pick the right community college is not something many students think about when first setting their sites on postsecondary education, but it should be.
There are many benefits to enrolling at a community college even though it may feel like you’re holding yourself back at first. This, of course, couldn’t be further from the truth.
You just might find yourself thinking that way if all your friends are going to a 4-year school immediately after graduation.
The reality, however, is that community college can be conquered quickly and more affordably and give you a good foundation of general education requirements on which to build.
But before you decide on just any community college, complete each of these nine steps.
1. Know where you’re going.
Going the community college route does not absolve you from having a plan for the future. If anything, you should be more aware of what you want to do with the rest of your life.
That’s because you’ll want to make sure the school you’re transferring to will be accepting of the work you’ve put in at a community college.
2. Know how you learn best.
How you learn is as important as what you learn. When you are aware of the methods that work best, you can tailor much of your studies to those needs. Community college is a great place to figure this out about yourself, and it will serve you well when the stakes become higher at a four-year university and, if applicable, graduate school.
3. Do the math.
How much will it cost to complete your education? That number varies greatly depending on what you choose to do, how long you plan to be in school, and where you plan to graduate.
The full cost of a college education can run anywhere from $25,000 per year to well over $200,000. One way to significantly reduce those costs is to attend a community college for the first two years of your four-year program, then port your general education accomplishments over to an affordable in-state university.
From there, you just have to worry about postgraduate school, which can also be pricey, but not as pricey than attending a four-year private university for the entirety of your undergraduate program.
4. Show up.
While community colleges are much more affordable than any other form of postsecondary school, they will still cost a few thousand per year to attend. That’s nothing to sneeze at, so don’t make the mistake of thinking just any one will do.
Actually go to the campus. Take a look around. Audit some classes if you can. Get a sense that the community college has what you’re looking for before enrolling.
5. Seek out graduates and current students.
No one will be able to give you the necessary firsthand experience that you need better than a current student and a recent graduate. Since community colleges are “community” in the sense that they’re easily accessible, it won’t take much legwork to find someone that can give you the appropriate amount of insight.
6. Check statistics (and get specific).
In continuing the “cheapness isn’t everything” approach to picking the right community college, you should also make sure to check statistics regarding the success rates of the school in question. Check it in terms of general ed, and also check out specific programs if applicable to your school beyond the two-year associates degree.
Make sure there is potential before committing 730 days of your life to the school.
7. Talk to four-year universities about the school.
Where are some common schools that graduates of the community college transfer to when they get out? Place some phone calls. Talk to registrar offices. Ask about how easily credits from the two-year college transfer. You don’t want to throw money away on classes that will do you little good in the four-year plan.
8. When possible, do it with honors.
Many community colleges boast honors programs that are almost certain to get you the transfer hours you need to tackle the last two years of your undergraduate degree.
Unless you need remediation in order to further your education, don’t take a class that will not help you achieve the larger goal of getting your bachelors degree, or else you’ll be throwing money away.
9. Find out about transfer programs.
Many four-year colleges and universities make the process easy on community college graduates by offering transfer programs that better guarantee the hours earned will be towards a four-year degree rather than lost in the shuffle.
Whenever possible, you need to know what your top three four-year colleges and universities are ahead of time so you can make your time at community college mean something.
It’s never easy deciding what you want to do for the rest of your life, and the truth is, your preferences could change from the time you enter community college to the time that you transfer (and even thereafter).
But if you want to get the most of your time attending a community college, you should do just as much homework on the location as you would a four-year college/university or a graduate school.
By refining your tastes and focusing as much as possible, you can make the postsecondary educational process as smooth and impactful as possible.
[Image via BigBend.edu]