Many high school students know they want to continue their educations after graduation. However, it can be difficult to know whether to choose a local community college or a university.
Is it better to choose a university from the start for your four-year degree, or to begin at a community college and transfer to a university later? If a two-year degree is your goal, should you opt for an associate-level program at a university, or choose a junior college? The short answer to these questions is, “It depends.”
Benefits and Considerations
Let’s look at some of the similarities and differences of each academic path.
Sometimes, high school students gravitate toward universities out of concerns about academic quality. In decades past, many community colleges were considered academically inferior to universities. However, that is no longer the case for most community colleges. Simply put, students can receive a high-quality education at either type of institution.
The degrees and programs offered at community colleges and universities differ. Community colleges generally offer associate-level degrees for a limited number of programs, whereas universities typically offer dozens of associate, bachelor and post-graduate degrees.
You can begin your college career at a community college, even if the school doesn’t offer the major you want to pursue. If you take this approach, talk to an academic advisor before enrolling to determine how your credits will transfer when you are ready to move on to a university.
College is a significant investment in your future, whichever route you choose. However, tuition/fees for community colleges are typically about half the cost of a traditional university. In addition, because community colleges are “commuter” schools, students can also save money on room and board — although they may incur expenses commuting to/from campus to attend classes.
Community colleges generally have more lenient enrollment standards than universities, where students must often meet rigorous academic performance requirements to be considered for admission. For students who may not have done as well in high school as they would have liked, starting at a community college and performing well in classes may enable them to transfer to a university.
Finally, college life looks different in each environment. Community colleges generally cannot offer the same types of clubs, activities and sports offered by universities. University students also usually live on campus, making it easy to engage with classmates, whereas community college students commute.
However, community college can be a great choice for busy students who are juggling work/family responsibilities. They often offer more flexibility, such as night classes and more opportunities for remote learning.
Choose the Option That Best Meets Your Needs
Ultimately, the decision to attend a community college or a university will depend on how you feel about the various factors discussed above.
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