Considering community college as the first step on the journey to a college degree? Worried that a four-year college experience might be online this fall, not worth the money?
A community college will likely charge lower tuition and fees. These schools often have more experience with online courses than many four-year colleges. Chances are that your community has agreements that will make it easy to transfer to a four-year college.
Mercer County Community College (NJ), as one example in my backyard, has agreements with 15 different schools. It’s quite likely that your community college credits will transfer with you. Rowan University, as another example, goes one step further. It operates the community college systems in three New Jersey counties. These students have the opportunity to transfer seamlessly into four-year degree programs on Rowan’s main campus.
But unless there are more flexible credit policies in the near future, community college might not be the best place to start.
Here’s four reasons why:
The transfer process works better for students who earn an Associates degree.
It is more difficult to transfer from a community college to a four-year school as a freshman or sophomore than it is to transfer for the junior year. There are fewer openings for freshman and sophomore transfer students at colleges that have high freshman retention rates. But openings expand for junior transfers. They replace sophomores who leave, go abroad as juniors, or go into co-op and work full-time for a semester.
Two years of good community college grades can cancel out a weak high school transcript or low test scores. Twelve to 30 community college credits might not. Apply to be a freshman or sophomore transfer, and you’ll be asked to send your high school records.
Its best to be careful before selecting your courses at a community college. While the introductory course might seem bland, it is the one that gets you transfer credit into a bachelor’s program.
A community college wants you to complete General Education Requirements over those two years.
Four-year colleges prefer not to have juniors enrolled in the introductory courses. They want incoming junior transfers to be ready to declare a major. Start at a four-year college, and you have the opportunity to sample courses for two to four possible majors. You can take courses in the areas of least interest later in your education, and avoid the difficult classes that you don’t need.
A community college expects an Associates degree candidate to complete the first two years of introductory courses in their major. That school will also want you to have all general education requirements out of the way. But the community will have a smaller selection of courses in the areas that you like the least. You could wind up transferring from a community college with a lower GPA than you might have earned if you spent those two years at a four-year school.
Community colleges have math and reading placement tests.
A community college can either require a minimum ACT/SAT score to be admitted into college level English and Math classes. It can also ask a senior to take a placement test. Those who score too low could be assigned into remedial classes that carry no college credit.
Community college transfers are not assured admission into high-demand majors.
Many four-year colleges have impacted or restricted majors that have few seats available for transfer students. A four-year college could admit you as a junior pre-major and ask you to take more required courses. That adds time to your undergraduate education. Unless you do well in those courses, you could be denied access to your desired major. You might be forced to backtrack to complete another major. That adds even more time to your undergraduate education.
If you are a high school senior who is considering community college as an option, contact the four-year schools that have accepted you. Ask how they will consider community college credits if you need to transfer them at any time. If you live near a regional public four-year college that is seeking students, find out if their credits will transfer more easily. Also find out if you can avoid remedial requirements that the community college could impose on you.
I like community colleges as an option when transfer into a four-year school happens seamlessly. That’s where these schools do their best work at transfer advising. I like them as a summer school option for students who are home from a four-year college. They’re also a great place for high school students to earn college credit. But community college is not the best option for a high school senior considering more than two possible college majors. A four-year school is a much better place to confirm your interests.
Considering community college? Already enrolled and planning to transfer? Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 609-406-0062
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