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Ask the Experts: Community College

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

Question I am trying to look at two year schools because I do not want to go to a four year but I can't figure out what schools are good and which are bad. There does not seem to be a rating on them and I was wondering if they were all not worth it or not. - Kathryn

AnswerIt is only because most two-year colleges, primarily community-sponsored institutions, draw students from their local area, that there is little interest on the part of commercial publications to rank them. There are many, many fine community colleges throughout the country and you should consider one of them if this is the avenue you want to take towards a college degree.

There are some very basic and important factors that can help you to choose a quality two-year college. Be certain the college is fully accredited by the regional higher educational accrediting agency (colleges will indicate if they are in their literature). Find out if the college offers the particular field of study you have in mind. Check on the number of students who transfer each year to four-year colleges to complete their education and what are the colleges they attend. Also check with the career and placement office on what kinds of jobs and internships graduates obtain once they receive their degree. Ask local professionals and business people what they think of the college under consideration and whether they hire graduates. 

A two-year college can be an excellent way either to begin a college education and transfer or to complete a two-year degree and move into a career.

Question im a sophomore in high school and im supposed to take community college in san antonio because next year i plan on being a early graduate. what can i do to get into a community college in san antonio. i already got one planned out that im wanting to go to but i need to know more about it and how can i be accepted. the college is called San Antonio College. thank you. - jasmin

AnswerMost community colleges are "open enrollment" schools. That is, you only need to meet minimal requirements to register for classes and earn credits toward a degree. Work with your high school guidance department or academic adviser to register at San Antonio or another college and to make sure to earn credits toward your diploma and your college degree. Take general education courses, which are more likely to transfer if/when you apply to four-year universities. The community colleges often have special programs or lists of courses that are directed toward transfer to a liberal arts university program and are even guaranteed to transfer if you earn certain grades. Finally, visit the college and talk with the registrar about the procedures for registering as a high school student.

Question i'm from Indonesia. I have a plan to study in the US, and i would like to ask you something about that. What i want to ask is about going to community college for the first 2 year. What is the downside of going to community college for the first 2 year than directly into university? - Ignatius

AnswerThe major downside for many international students is the lack of a more structured, residential environment at a community college. These institutions are often populated by students who are older, taking part-time courses, and taking evening courses. There are fewer extracurricular activities on campus, and less of a campus community than you would find at most residential four-year colleges and universities. A community college can be an excellent starting point, but you'll need to be assertive and independent to make this choice work well for you.

Question Would it be better to a community college and get the credited courses instead of paying for them at a university? Do your credits run over into the university if u leave? - Brittany


AnswerIf the cost of taking courses is a significant issue for you in building a foundation for eventual enrollment in a university degree program, you should enroll in a community college. The tuition per course is significantly less in comparison to a university. Be very certain that the courses you are considering are full three- or four-credit courses that fall under the transferable category. Taking courses for full credit and with a formal grade can be "stockpiled" and put towards credits for a degree program either at a community college you attend or a university you wish to enter at some point.

Question My G.P.A is very low is it going t be hard for me to get into college besides a community college. If so could you list some colleges for me - natasha


AnswerSo many students have met with eventual success in college, graduating from a four-year program after starting their post-high school education in a community college. Since almost all of the community colleges are nonresidential, students commute from a nearby area, so you should check out those that are near your home.

Visit the campus and speak with an admissions adviser to be clear on three key factors: what are the requirements and steps for admission, what are the fields of study the school is known for and will any of them prepare you to transfer to a four-year college or university eventually, and what academic support services are available to help you succeed in your studies. We like the attitude and programs available at most community colleges. There is usually a large variety of courses and pre-career fields to consider, and the preparation for further studies and a degree is helpful.

Question Do you think it's easier or cheaper to start at a 2 yr. college and transfer over to a 4yr. or is that just too much of a hassle? - Shamika


AnswerIt can be both easier and less expensive to start with the two-year college route. Most two-year colleges have open enrollment (meaning all students with a high school diploma or GED, and even many students without either) are accepted to study. Those that aren't open entirely have very modest selectivity and course requirement stipulations. You can earn your two-year (associate) degree, and then typically transfer all or most of your credits to a four-year (bachelor's degree) institution. This is particularly true of two public institutions in the same state, many of which have articulation agreements laying out guaranteed transfer programs and credit acceptances for particular courses and grades.  

The cost of two-year colleges, most of which are public, is also substantially lower than most four-year institutions. Most are non-residential, however, so you will need to secure your own housing or live at home (which can save you a lot of money if that situation is workable with your family).

More and more students are transferring, even more than once these days, and the process is not that difficult in most cases.

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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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