College Counseling & Planning      Orleans, MA. (774) 801-2449      Ashland, OR. (541) 488-0919
The last year or two of high school is extremely stressful, thinking about colleges, tests, scholarships, etc. Jan has made...more
--Andrew Cataldo, Gonzaga University, 2012

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SHOULD YOU CONSIDER A COMMUNITY COLLEGE? Students often overlook community colleges as an option for post high school education. There are many reasons for this, however for many students it is the perfect solution.

Practically all careers that provide meaningful work both financially and psychologically require more education than a high school diploma. Students who truly are unsure about attending college can benefit by experimenting with higher education at the community college level. A community college is often a good choice for a student who has realized too late that they want to pursue a college education, or do not have the academic preparation either because they did not take the appropriate course work or were academically unsuccessful. Students who want to pursue a vocational or technical education will benefit by studying in a two year program. Finally there are students who seek eventual transfer to a four-year college but who may not be financially, academically, or mentally prepared to deal with the complexity of a four-year institution.

For all of these students here are a few thoughts to help them make their decision as to whether a community college might the choice for them.
• Small class sizes – the small classes offer the opportunity to interact more with classmates. Small classes allow for small-group discussions where active participation and hands-on learning is encouraged.
• Interaction with professors – Professors have fewer students, therefore they have more time to get to know each student individually. They will be more involved in helping you make the most of your college experience. Some professors may be employed in the community in their field and this may open up opportunities for internships.
• Gives you time to try again – If you are unable to meet initial entrance standards required by the four-year school of your choice, a community college can give you a second chance. A community college gives you the opportunity to improve your grade point average, score higher on standardized test scores, and gain a broader knowledge of specific academic subjects. If your ultimate goal is to go to a four-year school, you can transfer after you have improved as a student.
• Spend less money – Community colleges are cheaper than four-year colleges and universities. If you think that you want to get a four-year degree, but you’re not exactly sure, you can take core classes (just make sure they will transfer) and save some money while living at home and having a job. Although sometimes your financial aid package may not be as much as it could be from a four year school depending on the expected family contribution.
• Low variety of courses/majors – Since community colleges are two-year schools, they don’t offer the range or depth of courses and majors that a four-year school offers. If a variety of classes and majors is what you want, a community college may not be your best option.
• Miss experience of living on campus – Most community colleges do not offer the option of living on-campus. Therefore, you miss out on many college experiences such as sharing a dorm room and the social interaction that comes from living and studying with others. A couple of exceptions: Central Oregon Community College in Bend, and Southwestern Community College in Coos Bay offer residence halls. Also, students enrolled in the OSU/Linn-Benton Community College Degree Partnership (dual enrollment) have access to campus housing.
• Not as socially involved – Because many community colleges do not offer as much when it comes to campus life, you may find it harder to be socially involved with fellow students. Often students leave the campus at the end of day much as one would leave work for home. If you want a college with an abundance of social activities, a community college may not be for you since there is often less offered in terms of big sporting events and other social opportunities.
• Difficulty transferring credits – In order to avoid the disappointment of having to retake courses that you have already completed it is very important that you find out what courses are transferable between your community college and the four-year school that you want to attend. Just taking a math or English course to fulfill a requirement may not be enough if it is not recognized by the four year school. This kind of a predicament can delay your graduation date and end up costing you more money.
Before you make a decision about whether or not to attend a community college, you need to weigh the pros and cons. It may be just the solution for you, but it is not the answer for everyone. Just like with four year schools, in order for you to be content during your time in college, you need to pick the kind of school where you are most comfortable and the kind of school that is most conducive to your needs. Think about a community college as a choice rather than a last resort. Check it out!

Judith Christie
College Planning Consultants