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Is Community College a Good Idea?

Explore the pros and cons of not attending a four-year university right out of high school.

Young female student studying in library.
Credit: Shutterstock/Jacob Lund

To begin their senior year of high school, students work on college applications with hopes of continuing in higher education. But is going to a four-year university straight out of high school the best decision for everyone?

As a community college graduate and transfer student, I can say there are positives and negatives to attending community college. Although some of which I didn’t realize until transferring to a four-year institution.

But what are they? What makes community college so different from a four-year university?

While there are some differences, the truth is that they aren’t all that different from one another.

What is community college?

High school graduation, cap throwing.
End of high school graduation ceremony. Credit: Shutterstock/hxdbzxy

Community college is usually a two-year learning experience, maybe three to some. These students do the same things and take the same classes as students who attend a four-year university right off the bat.

The first years of college are used to complete “G.E.s,” or general education classes, along with “prereqs,” or prerequisite classes. I like to define “prereqs” as the beginner classes for the student’s chosen major.

Something I always tell students debating between attending a community college or a four-year after high school is technically the first two years look the same for both.

You’ll be taking similar general requirement and prerequisite classes. When you transfer to complete your upper divisions, that’s where the classes differ depending on your interests.

But what’s the biggest difference?

College campus.
College campus. Credit: Shutterstock/Jorge Salcedo

Believe it or not, community college can be free.

After President Joe Biden introduced the idea to make community college free throughout the country, twenty-six states adopted the change. In those states, students could attend school cost-free as long as they met the eligibility requirements.

While some states have decided not to make community college free, it’s still the more cost-effective option.

According to Forbes, the average cost of tuition at an in-district community college in 2021 was $3,800. While a public or private four-year university averaged $10,740 and $38,070, respectively.

The community college I attended had a program for free tuition. After I filled out the right forms, I saved over $2,500. I only paid for the required textbooks and materials for my classes.

The reason I’m such a strong advocate for community college is because it’s a great place to grow as a student. It can be considered a second chance for students who maybe don’t have the best grades. It can also be for students who just aren’t sure what they want to study. Along with the support system for transferring students.

While you can go to a four-year with an undeclared major, it isn’t the best idea in my opinion.

This is because while most universities have similar programs, they all differ from one another in a way. There is no doubt that some schools have stronger programs than others. If you decide to major in a field your chosen college isn’t the strongest in, it could impact your future academic career.

I also like to tell people that at the end of the day, you will be getting the same degree as those who started college at a four-year university. So, keep that in mind.

What are the faults of community colleges?

Students studying.
Studying. Credit: Shutterstock/Ground Picture

One difference between community college and a four-year is that it isn’t very sociable, which my friend, who is also a transfer student reminded me of. To be honest, the campus was mostly dead.

While there are students who are on campus, it will never amount to a four-year.

In community college, it was hard to make friends with my classmates because everyone went to class and back home.

However, I feel as if four-year university classes are just like that as well. Unless you go out of your way to make friends in your classes, most of the friends you meet will be at social gatherings or in dorms.

The second negative, though, is actually applying to transfer. I applied to colleges as a high school senior and going through that process all over again two years later was a bit annoying.

Although it isn’t the applying that was the negative.

As a community college student wanting to transfer, there are different prereq class requirements for all colleges. While they’re mostly the same, there are two or three extra classes that I need to take to satisfy a few colleges’ specific requirements.

Due to this, it can be difficult to juggle all the different colleges and their requirements.

This is why I recommend knowing what colleges you want to apply for transfer during your first year to get ahead of it all. Especially before your second (or third) year when you start taking prerequisite classes.

After transferring to a four-year university, I learned exactly how much I was missing out on the resources I needed to further enhance my experience.

While I enjoyed my time in community college, there are just so many more resources and opportunities at a four-year college.

However, my friend disagrees with me on this one. She believes that community college has just as many resources as a four-year university, so I guess it just really depends on where and how you look at it.

My personal experience

Students studying.
Students studying at the library. Credit: Shutterstock/Diego Cervo

As a transfer student, I am and always will be a huge advocate for community college because of how it personally impacted me.

It gave me the courage to change my major from psychology to English, allowing me to pursue something that I wanted and what I thought I had to.

It was also a great gateway from high school and the transition to a four-year was smoother than it probably would have been if I went straight into it.

While there are negatives to the positives, I don’t think they’re as big of a deal when you think about it. Everyone has different experiences in community college and just college in general.

If you aren’t 100% sure what you want to study or don’t want to go to a four-year right away. Community college is the best option and one that everyone should consider.

Written By

Hi! My name is Madison Kim and I write for the Life Section for Trill Mag. I am currently a student studying English and Creative Writing at the University of California, Berkeley.

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