Community College Could Be Your Best Decision

female community college student sitting outside with her backpack beside her writing in a notebook

The benefits of attending a local community college are huge. It is the best academic and financial decision you will make. It was how I graduated high school at 16, received my AS Degree in Business Administration at 17, earned my BS in Business Entrepreneurship at 19, and then my MBA in Entrepreneurship and Global Business at 20. I started my college academic career at 13 as a concurrent enrollment student. For high school students reading this, I highly encourage you to consider concurrent enrollment. Concurrent enrollment puts you on an accelerated academic path. It is the fastest way to earn a college degree in the shortest amount of time.

What Is A Community College

A community college, also known as a junior college, is an affordable two-year school that can lead to an associate degree, professional certificates, and ready-to-work technical degrees. It is a great pathway for students to transfer to a four-year university while saving money. It’s also a good way to help recent high school graduates ease into college life, get an idea of what they want to study, and build effective learning habits before transferring.

The Benefits Of Community College Are Enormous

One of the most beneficial aspects of community college is that it is a huge money saver. It costs a fraction of a four-year college and in many states the first two years are free, I will write more about this later. Therefore, if you take the right number of college credits, you have the potential to earn a degree for free. When I was in high school and took concurrent enrollment, it only cost me a $35 health fee per semester.

Throughout high school, I was given $100 each semester to spend at the college campus bookstore which I had to spend during the first two weeks of school or it expired. Typically, I used this for textbooks, but if there was any money left over, I would buy a flash drive, ream of paper, notebook, or other supplies. I was able to earn over 40 credits for just a few hundred dollars. This saved me thousands.

Transferring To A University

Community colleges can guide students into four-year universities seamlessly. Usually, community colleges have an “articulation agreement” with public universities within the state. Therefore, if you are a transfer student, you are guaranteed that you will get into an in-state college. I took advantage of my community college’s, Butte College, “articulation agreement” and it paid off substantially. I transferred to an in-state university, California State University, Sacramento, with an AS-T in Business Administration. The “T” stands for transfer, Associates for transfer.

This gave me a slight edge and there were a few prerequisite classes that I wasn’t required to take because my AS-T required classes counted as equivalent courses. I was also able to go straight into my major, Business Entrepreneurship, while students who transfer without the “articulation agreement” had to apply and be accepted into their major. An additional benefit of attending community college and transferring was, that I would earn my bachelor’s degree in 60 credits or less, in other words, if there were required classes that went over 60 credits the university would drop them.

Save A Lot Of Money By Going To A Community College

Being a transfer student can save you tens of thousands of dollars throughout your pursuit of a bachelor’s degree. The cost of an in-state university is approximately $110,000 for all four years. For two years at a community college, it’s approximately $9,300. If you attend a community college and then transfer to a university, which is something I recommend for almost all students, it will cost approximately $59,500. This is a massive savings, nearly half the cost of all four years at an in-state university.

US dollar bills spread out on a table

Community college transfer students’ graduation rates with a bachelor’s are higher than those of non-transfer students. The odds are in your favor if you attend a community college first and then transfer to a university.

If you are a high school student or recent graduate, don’t worry if your grades weren’t strong in high school because you don’t need good grades to get in. After you earn your degree your high school grades are inconsequential. I started concurrent enrollment when I was a freshman in high school and by the time I graduated I had over 24 credits at the community college level. By having over 24 credits, colleges and universities no longer consider high school grades and don’t require ACT or SAT scores. Therefore, when I transferred to my university I was not required to take or have an SAT, instead, the cumulative GPA of all my completed college credits was considered.

Many Community Colleges Are Free

There are at least 20 states where community colleges are free. If a student takes the right number of units (a full semester load), they have the potential to earn an associate degree for free. That’s efficiency! I attended community college in California. California has one of the best free community college programs because they have very few restrictions. Every student in the state who wants a college degree would be foolish not to take advantage of California Promise Grant Program. My alma mater, Butte Community College, lists their free program here, Butte Promise. Check out your state to see if they off free community college.

Types Of Degrees, Educational Programs And Certificates

Community colleges have several types of academic opportunities, such as career training and transfer programs. Four years of college isn’t for everyone. If you want to enter the workforce sooner, you can earn a certificate or degree in a career-oriented field, such as firefighting, police, nursing, automotive mechanic, or engineering technology.

Associate of Arts (A.A.)

A.A. degrees focus on general education and liberal arts. They’re usually in fields like English, psychology, history, fine art, economics, music, and sociology. They are a transfer degrees. Usually, they take two years and require 60 credits.

Associate of Science (A.S.)

A.S. degree focuses on general education and math and science. They’re usually in fields like business, medicine, computer science, and engineering. They are a transfer degrees. Usually, they take two years and require 60 credits.

I frequently used Assist is the official course transfer and articulation system for California’s public colleges and universities. I wanted to ensure the courses I took were transferable to my major. Ask your academic advisor if your state has an academic site. By knowing exactly what will transfer, you will save time and money.

Professional Certification

Community colleges offer many professional certificates. If you’re looking to jumpstart your career, a great way to do it is by obtaining professional certification. Community colleges often tailor their professional certification programs to fit the needs of businesses in the local economy. Accordingly, upon graduation, you can enter the workforce with knowledge and skills that are in high demand in your area.

Professional certifications you can pursue at community college include:

Firefighter                  Medical coding

Landscape/Turfgass Technician                     Real estate appraisal

Early Childhood Education                            Solar panel installation

Electrical systems                                          Child Nutrition

Photojournalism                                           Para Education

CAD technician                                             Hospitality management

Automotive repair                                         Digital photography

Fashion merchandising                                 Welding Tech

How To Apply To A Community College

Many colleges have open admissions policies. Not only is it easy to get in, but often, students can enroll anytime. Even right up to the first day of class. Admissions requirements may vary but most will require, a high school diploma or a GED (unless you enroll in concurrent enrollment). Online, you will fill out and submit your application. Do this sooner rather than later. You can do this any time, even if you’re not planning on attending immediately. Usually, the application will be processed in 2-4 days, then you will be assigned a student ID.

FAFSA And Placement Tests

Fill out your FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) application. Take placement/assessment tests. Some community colleges require placement tests (in the state of California they are not required), also called assessment, testing in English and Math. These tests do not affect whether you get into community college. Instead, they help determine what courses you will place in regarding English and Math. Also, be sure to study for your assessment test. Most community colleges have study questions and pre-tests to help students prepare. It’s important to score as high as you can, then you don’t have to spend time taking lower-level classes.

Most schools allow you to take assessment tests twice, don’t panic if you don’t do well on the first try. For concurrent enrollment students, you don’t have to take the assessments immediately if you aren’t taking an English or Math course. I didn’t take the assessments during my first semester. I took them the second as I wanted to take a math class. Go to orientation, meet with an academic advisor, and register for classes.

Community Colleges That Offer Baccalaureate Programs

Today, 24 states across the US allow select community colleges to offer bachelor’s degrees. Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Washington, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

The program selections that community colleges offer are much smaller than the program options at universities, but don’t let that discourage you. Community college bachelor’s (BA &BS) programs are limited to workforce-ready professional degrees, which is advantageous for you as a new graduate. These programs are intended to get college graduates into important fields immediately after graduation. Read all about earning a bachelor’s degree from a community college, Community Colleges Are Offering Bachelor’s Degrees.

Be sure to check out, they are a great resource. You can search colleges, compare schools and reach some great articles.