Chances are, you didn’t grow up dreaming of attending your local community college. You probably didn’t proudly put on its sweatshirt on decision day and you definitely don’t root for its football team. When it comes down to it, though, these details don’t matter much. What does matter is that you find a school that suits you. Community college is an unsung hero for many students.
As someone who didn’t get to go to her first-choice college freshman year, I know how you’re probably feeling as you anticipate this upcoming semester. Our society doesn’t deem community college worthy of the praise that it truly deserves. When people ask where you’re going to school, you’re not shouting it from the rooftops. Soon enough, though, you just might. Because the truth is, community college is actually awesome, and here’s why:
- No student is left behind. Everyone is welcome regardless of age, race, financial challenges, etc. Community college is a place where all students are made to feel like they belong. And just because a community college allows everyone to pass through its doors doesn’t mean that it’s not challenging once you step foot inside.
- You’re getting your education for a great price. Tuition averages $7,617 and $24,269 annually at four-year institutions, but a community college will cost a mere $3,430. Potentially, you could be saving anywhere between $4,000 and $20,839 a year.
- You can get a taste of college. Who says you can’t try out college? You want to take prerequisites and transfer to a four-year institution? Go for it! Or perhaps, it turns out that school isn’t where you want to be right now. You can spend a short time at community college and attain enough schooling to get a good job.
- You can transfer to your college of choice from here. Not only have you saved a ton of money on the first half of your education, but your community college can organize a transfer agreement with a four-year college of your choice. Getting all of your credits to transfer isn’t always easy, though. The earlier you decide, the better off you’ll be.
- Get your degree in just two years! With an associate’s degree, you can become any of these awesome professionals (data collected from Bureau of Labor Statistics):
- An occupational therapist assistant helping an occupational therapist with patient care and earning an average $53,240 a year.
- A radiologic technologist giving patients x-rays and other diagnostic imaging examinations while earning a median annual wage of $54,620.
- A web developer who creates, maintains, and designs sites for businesses while earning an estimated $62,500 each year.
- A registered nurse saving lives while earning a rewarding $65,470 median annual income.
- A nuclear technician assisting physicists and engineers in nuclear research and production for an estimated annual wage of $69,069.
- A dental hygienist providing preventative dental care for patients while earning an annual wage of about $70,210.
- An air traffic controller monitoring and directing aircrafts with a median annual wage of $122,530.
- Discover more through your education by taking general education courses. Community colleges permit academic flexibility, not only in their price range but in their enrollment expectations. There is no pressure to enroll full-time; in fact, the majority of students move at their own pace. This makes it a great opportunity for parents, nontraditional students, working adults, and those who use school as a backup plan. Every student comes from a unique background, and many have busy lives outside of school.
- You’ll have the comforts of home. Whether you live with your parents or are in your own apartment near your hometown, it’s nice to be local. Sometimes college is enough of a culture shock, and you don’t need to add getting to know a new area to that stress. Here, you’ll have family and friends not too far away. It’s also easier to relate to new people that you will meet, and you might be surprised by the new friends you make.
- When everyone gets over the excitement of living in a dorm, they’ll be jealous. You have everything you need at your fingertips: privacy, transportation, great food, and little to no housing payments. And if it just so turns out that you’re interested in dorm living, you’re in luck! Now, nearly a quarter of community colleges are offering housing to students.
- It’s hard to argue with the location and price, especially when it allows you the freedom to build your résumé while attending college. Those who attend four-year universities full-time are surrounded by the distractions of their on-campus social lives, and they don’t have that luxury. At community college, you can meet all kinds of people. You also already know a ton of businesses in the area, so when you decide to work in the future, finding a position will be simple!
- Unique educational opportunities are available through community colleges. You can pursue a certification program, STEM education, or online classes. These programs are all created to help you advance your career, and they are also extremely rewarding for those that have no time to waste.
- Don’t knock the quality of community college. Classes are small, allowing you to grow, and professors are highly qualified. In fact, many teachers find their first positions fresh out of their master’s programs at community colleges. Here, they can bring fresh perspectives and excitement to the classroom. And that leads us to our last point: Everyone starts somewhere, so why shouldn’t you?
Community colleges deserve a big thanks (and maybe an apology from society) for all that they offer their students that larger schools cannot. You might not have spent your whole life imagining enrolling at a community college and maybe you didn’t brag about your final decision to your friends, but you better believe that this is going to be a decision you won’t regret.