Community College: A Guide To Making The Best Choices For Your Education

Community colleges first came on the scene in the 1970s during the major academic thrust. Students went to community college to explore their options in their field of study or to pursue a trade. For many community colleges, the idea was to prepare students to take jobs in the real world. Educating students to handle the typical tasks of running a business, working a trade or teaching children was the main goal for a student of a community college.

For many students, community college offered opportunities to learn the hands-on activities they needed to be a success in their chosen occupation. The concept of the community college didn't come into play until the 1970s when the junior college concept proved unattractive to college-bound students.

The Normal school is the forerunner of the junior college. It had its origins in the 1850s and was mainly utilized for teachers to learn middle-class values and help their students develop as responsible citizens. The concept faded as the junior colleges made their appearance in 1901. It is interesting to note that the junior college was considered a bridge between secondary education and college.

Pros and Cons of Community College

Community colleges have progressed a lot over the years. They have become more respected then they have been in the past and they are a great stepping stone to help students find their true path in life. Community colleges offer students the opportunity to take general education classes for a lot less money which will allow them to explore their interests more in depth. 

Pros

Community college gives students an excellent opportunity to explore their chosen careers or sample different career paths in a more intimate environment.  The small class sizes allows students to feel more comfortable to ask questions or speak out in class. Another pro to attending a community college is the flexibility in scheduling classes for students with a job. Classes at community colleges are offered at different times during the day and night to make it more convenient for students. 

Cons

Because community colleges serve the local communities, they can't branch out to other states or provide services that are outside their realm of influence. Community colleges are beholden to state and community governments to have set regulations and requirements in place. Communities that are represented by the community college get preferred discounts and other incentives. Commuting to school can be a hassle. You don't have the closeness that you would have living on campus. You don't have the clubs and societies that you have with a traditional college or university.

   Advantages of Community College 

George K. Boggs in his article:" Democracy's Colleges: The Evolution of Community College in America" cites that the community college provides an open door for anyone to explore their options and helps meet workplace needs. It is no surprise that community colleges offer a broad range of affordable programs for students of all ages to explore careers. It is so much more than that, however, when you think about the certificate, art enrichment and general enrichment classes that community colleges provide.

The distinct advantage of a community college education is the opportunity it affords for anyone to pick up a hobby, explore new worlds of exploration and meet interesting people. In the same article Boggs goes on to say community colleges provide a diverse, yet inclusive population that brings a variety of different cultures and social, economic structures to the forefront. A community college student is immersed in the local culture and has access to a wider culture.

Community colleges offer students access to technology and help them prepare to enter the workforce. Employers appreciate having trained employees that are ready to work for them.

The Makeup of Community College Students

More than 80% of community college students are working either part or full-time jobs right now. For many of them, community college gives them an opportunity to enhance their current position or explore new options. The other 20% of community college students enroll to take up a hobby or learn a new language. For these students, the flexibility and small class size are what drives them to attend community college. Community colleges welcome students of all ages, but the typical community college student is over 25 years old and is working towards improving their job skills.

Jeffrey King in his article: 5-reasons-community-colleges-make-sense-right-now brings home the point that high school students should reconsider jumping right into a four-year college after high school. It does make sense.

The cost factor is a big consideration when selecting the right college for you. Community college gives you an opportunity to explore your options before committing to a career. Most community colleges are readily available and cost less than a traditional four-year college.

Community college is best when you want to get the basics before you go to a traditional college or university. Most community colleges, because they have a broad range of subjects are geared towards helping students explore their options. However, community colleges also provide a good avenue for those who just need to brush up on their skills or want to pursue a trade.

The Basics of Transferring To 4-year Degrees

It is important to note that community colleges provide training for many occupations. You need to do your research to find the programs that are right for your chosen occupation. You also need to understand the basic requirements to pursue your career to find the right fit for you.

Traditional colleges and universities have certain criteria that need to be met to accept college credit from your community college. Understanding how many credits you'll need to meet that criterion and if your chosen college or university will accept those credits are crucial. You don't want to invest your time and money to find out that the college won't accept those credits.

Once you've explored your options, you can make the most out of community college. The American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) provides an overview of community colleges and provides a wealth of information. To find out more, visit their website:AACC Community College Finder.

There are some basic criteria for transferring to 4-year colleges. All prospective students need to show an aptitude for learning. All prospective students should have a general idea of the program they want to pursue so that the credits can be utilized correctly. All prospective students need to research and plan out how they will finance their education.

Financing Your Dream

This is probably the most important aspect of preparation you'll need to take. College is expensive. Most students attending community colleges cite that expenses were the main reason they decided to go to community colleges instead of traditional colleges and universities.

Prospective students sometimes do have difficulties in paying for community college. A prudent student explores their financial options before enrolling in or taking part in a college program. This is especially true when you are transferring from a community college to a traditional 4-year college. Financial aid is available in the form of scholarships, Pell grants and student loans.

The biggest problem according to Kelsey Sheehy in her article," 5-costly-financial-aid-mistakes-community-college-students-make "is not following through with filling out the free application for federal student aid (FAFSA) until the last minute. There is a serious misconception out there that you can't apply for federal aid for community college. This isn't true. It's only when this information is assimilated, and the facts are put on the table that prospective students take action on it.

The second biggest problem that students may face is a misunderstanding of all the grants and scholarships they may be able to get. Prospective students have left thousands of dollars "on the table" due to either a misunderstanding of the criteria or miscommunication of the actual grants and scholarships available.

Some students overload themselves to meet mistaken criteria for getting into a 4-year college. Understanding what courses and program you need to take to transfer over to your chosen college or university will save you headaches and precious time. Overloading yourself with a heavy course load isn't the way to qualify for financial aid.