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Starting Out at a Community College

By Peterson's Staff updated on Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Many students attending community colleges start out knowing that they will eventually transfer to a four-year school to get their bachelor's degree. There are several reasons you may want to consider this route, too.

Why community college might be best for you

Upon graduating from high school, you may not have defined career goals. Not wanting to put your education on hold, you may prefer to avoid paying huge tuition bills while trying to "find yourself." As the cost of a university education escalates each year, the option of spending your freshman and sophomore years at a two-year college can be a great way to get started.

You may also consider attending a junior college if you are unable to meet the initial entrance standards required by the four-year school of your choice. Some of these standards, such as a specified grade point average (GPA), standardized test scores, or knowledge of specific academic subjects, can be remedied at a two-year college. Students who have opted to do this praise community colleges for giving them the chance to be academically "born again."

Transferring from a two-year college to a four-year college

If your plan is to attend a junior college with the ultimate goal of transferring to a four-year school, you will be pleased to know that the importance of the community college path to a bachelor's degree is recognized by all segments of higher education. As a result, many junior colleges have revised their course outlines and established new courses in order to comply with the offerings of the universities.

Institutional improvements to simplify transferring credits have also occurred at both the two- and four-year levels. The generous transfer policies of the Pennsylvania, New York, and Florida state university systems, for example, reflect this attitude. These systems accept all credits from students who have graduated from accredited community colleges.

Develop a community college transfer plan early

If you are thinking about moving from a junior college to a four-year university, the sooner you make up your mind, the better positioned you'll be to transfer successfully. The ideal time to make this decision is before you register at your two-year school. A counselor can help you select your classes with the goal of fulfilling the requirements needed for your major course of study.

Naturally, it is not always possible to plan your transferring strategy that far in advance, but keep in mind that the key to a successful transfer is preparation, and preparation takes time.

Prepare to transfer from community colleges

The first thing you need to do is gather your high school and community college transcripts. Compare their contents with the admission criteria of your chosen school. If you meet the requirements, file an application as far in advance of the deadline as possible. This will most likely include requesting that your former schools send official transcripts to the admission office of the school you plan to attend.

Review your transfer program with the head of your new department as soon as you have decided to transfer to determine the recommended general education pattern and necessary preparation for your major. At your present school, take the courses you will need to meet transfer requirements for the new one.

Junior college can help you meet requirements

Admission requirements for most four-year institutions vary. Usually, you will need to show satisfactory test scores, an academic record up to a certain standard, and completion of specific subject matter.

Transfer students can be eligible to enter a four-year school in a number of ways: by having been eligible for admission directly upon graduation from high school, by making up shortcomings in grades (or in subject matter not covered in high school) at a community college, or by satisfactory completion of necessary courses or credit hours at another postsecondary institution.

Ordinarily, students coming from junior colleges or from other four-year institutions must meet or exceed the receiving institution's standards for freshmen and show appropriate college-level course work taken since high school.

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About the Author

Peterson's has more than 40 years of experience in higher education, and the expert staff members here are all ready to leverage their considerable knowledge and experience to help you succeed on your educational journey. We have the information, the know-how, and the tools -- now all we need is you!

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