Fun fact: I did not apply to any universities out of high school. While my friends were focusing on college applications and applying for scholarships, I was taking the SAT for the second time and scoring worse than the first, and working hard to get C’s and D’s in my core classes. I had a rough time in high school, ultimately graduating with a GPA that was way too low to get into any university. So that summer, knowing that I was expected to go to college, I applied to start at my local community college the following semester, and it was the best thing that could have happened to me.
My situation is only one of many reasons to attend community college, any and all of which are valid. You may want to change your career plans or have a family. You may want to stay close to home or know that moving to a larger school would be overwhelming. Whatever the reason, I want to enumerate from my experiences what I consider the pros and cons of the adventure that is community college.
Let’s start with the good things.
Community college is a lot more affordable than any four-year university. As the United States continues to have a conversation over the rising cost of college and the necessary student loans, it can be daunting to consider just how much debt can be incurred. Cost is often a huge barrier to entry for education, and community college often makes the college experience much more financially manageable.
While my community college experience isn’t universal, I can say that it was incredibly flexible. I could have completed my entire degree online if I had wanted to, and I took evening classes that met once a week for a three hour block because it was more convenient. Many students are busy working professionals, or have children, or have multiple jobs, and so this flexibility allowed for educational advancement without having to stop life to start school.
I also was able to get the extra support I needed to succeed in my classes. My classes were small, so I could get to know my professors on a more personal level and ask for help more easily. My community college also offered a tutoring center that was open from 9am to 9pm, Monday through Friday. Whenever I needed help, from homework to test prep, I knew there was a place to turn.
Of course, there are some drawbacks to community college. You won’t find a robust campus life with rush week and super involved student elections. Most people attending community college want to go to their classes, maybe work in the library for a bit, and then head off to their job or back home to take care of their kids. And if you are invested in transferring and majoring in something very specific, you may have to table some of your classes until you get to your four-year university.
Ultimately, I am so glad I went to community college. I had an eclectic group of classmates, ranging from sixteen-year-olds dual enrolling at a local high school to a sixty-five-year-old military veteran pursuing a new career. I got to take classes with amazing professors whom I still remember, care about and keep in touch with, and was given the guidance and push I needed to move forward with my education. Community college gave me the experience, for the first time, of doing well in school, and I am grateful for what I gained from it every single day.