Making the Decision: Community College or University?
Many of the students I talked to expressed interest in attending community colleges and then transferring to a university after two years. There are definite positives to doing this, however, there are also significant disadvantages. So here I'm going to cover both and let you make the decision.
The Case for Community Colleges 1. GPA If your GPA isn't quite where it should be, and you can't get into a university yet, but want to go for higher education, a community college may be a good choice. Below a 3.0 GPA, I would say commit to a community college, because even if you get in to a university, it's doubtful that you'll get a good financial aid package. Going to community college gives you time to get your GPA up to an acceptable level and move on to a university.
2. Cost Maybe you're not a bad student, but you're not a good enough student to earn a lot of scholarships at a university. If so, you might consider a community college, which are well known for their low rates. You can save some money before you go to a university and still get two years of education.
3. Miscellaneous Reasons None of these reasons on its own is good enough to be a reason to go to a community college, but combined they can be persuasive. They include: easy coursework, small class size, closeness to home, a flexible schedule, and time to figure out if college is right for you. Out of these, the last one is the most important. A significant number of students who go on to university drop out before completing their degrees. If you do that, you're starting out in a lot of debt with nothing to show for it. If you drop out of a community college, however, you start out with a lot less debt and it's easier to pay it off.
The Case for Universities 1. Four Year Scholarships The most persuasive case for going to college falls, personally, in the financial aid packages. There are a great deal of four-year scholarships offered by universities that you can only get as an incoming freshman. And while, yes, there are scholarships for students who are transferring into a university, they are few and far between. By going to a university from the start, you qualify for these scholarships, and when you factor those into going to college, it can actually wind up making community college more expensive in comparison.
2. Lower-Drop Out Rate/Supportive Community It's a fact that more students drop out of a community college than they do from a university. There are several reasons for this. Going to a university is a big commitment, and there's more cost to dropping out. The fear of debt without a degree to show for it is enough to force some students to crack down and study to improve their grades when they start lagging. Also, ironically, even though the word community is in their name, community colleges offer little in that area. At a university you can make friends, which are good not just for your social life, but academically. Friends going through the same university experience help keep you from dropping out. You study together, you support each other, and you push each other. Good friends don't let friends flunk out of classes, and that holds true for many students. Not to mention it makes university life more fun than a community college. All of these factors combined make a university a better place to go and complete your degree.
3. No transition After two years of community college (or at a university, for that matter), you're finally getting your feet under you and understanding the system. But then, all of a sudden, you have to transfer to a new school. New rules, new system, and a giant headache await you. Your classes may not transfer as you think they will, your courses will get harder, and you'll probably find making friends to be more difficult (especially if you live off-campus). It's a lot to deal with, and you'll only really get accustomed to it right before you graduate. Being at a university for all four years eliminates all of these problems, and gets you used to the experience gradually with other freshman, rather than all at once as a transfer student.
My Advice If you're still interested in a community college after reading this article, then my advice to you is this. Apply for a community college, but also apply for a less competitive university while you're at it. See if you get in, and see what kind of financial aid package the university gives you. If they give you a lot of financial aid (I'm talking scholarships - to me loans don't count as true aid, because they have to be paid back), go for the university. Four year scholarships and a community outweigh the easier course load at a community college, and not having to transfer schools will make your life easier. If they don't give you enough financial aid, or you don't get in, go to the community college. The important thing is you tried, and it only cost you an application fee to make an informed decision. A lot of people undervalue their grades and their accomplishments, and think community college is their only choice when it isn't. Make sure you explore all your options before committing.