Community College: Taking the road less traveled

Interested in taking the road less traveled to a four-year degree? Consider community college. I know that at the mere mention of community college, your left eyebrow will raise and you will stare at me as if I’ve just shown up to prom wearing pajama bottoms and an extra-large t-shirt. However, for a great number of students, community colleges offer the best way to get a four-year degree if their original application packet is not considered strong enough for admission at prestigious universities.

If you’re one of those students who, for some reason, finds themselves “with no other choice” but to enroll at the local community college, I’m here to tell you it’s going to be okay, and not only that, but you’re going to be awesome if you decide to take the road less traveled into college.

1. Smaller classrooms lead to better outcomes

While four-year universities tout their low student to teacher ratio, they ignore that their general education courses are taken by enough people to populate a small town. Your professor’s attention will be divided among you and 100 others, and if it’s a subject that you are not particularly interested in, you will be less likely to thrive in this environment. At a community college, class sizes are small—anywhere between eight to 25 students. You will be able to get one-on-one face time with your professor and you are more likely to get As both in subjects you love and those you don’t particularly care for. Classes will vary in difficulty, but having a professor that you can see and interact with on the daily will definitely provide a boost.

2. Strengthening of GPA and résumé

Because classes are more manageable and professors more receptive to helping out students, your GPA, which might have been weak in high school, will get a huge boost. You will also have two years in which you can work and engage in extracurricular and community service activities you never had the chance to try in high school. When you write out your personal essay in your transfer application, you will be able to show a stunning amount of personal growth to admissions boards, and this will definitely make you stand out. They will look at your personal evolution and think, “Wow, this is a candidate who has exhibited ambition, growth, and an ability to make the best out of a particular circumstance!” This is a type of student colleges love to have on board.

3. Preparation for the rigors of college life

The transition from being a senior in high school to a freshman in college can be daunting for someone who is not experienced with the schoolwork. Spending some time at a community or junior college before transferring out can make this transition much easier. You will get a more personalized experience in navigating the college lifestyle, and by the time you are ready to transfer out, you’re already ahead of the pack because you’ve learned these valuable skills.

4. Cost

Community and junior colleges are much cheaper than their four-year counterparts. A semester (15 hours) as an undergrad at the University of Texas at Austin, the flagship UT school, will run you an average of $5,000.  The same semester runs you $900 at the nearby Austin Community College campuses.  When you’re still trying to figure out what you really want to do (and trust us, it’s perfectly normal to not have a solid idea straight out of high school), why spend an exorbitant amount when you can go to school for less?

5. Another way in

A number of universities make it easier for CC or JUCO students in good standing to gain admission into their ranks. Blinn College-Bryan, for example, features a hybrid program with Texas A&M where students who meet certain GPA and credit-hour requirements at Blinn gain automatic admission to Texas A&M. Other major universities in Texas with similar programs or with benefits and incentives for community college transfers include but are not limited to: UT Austin (with Austin Community College), the University of Houston (with Houston Community College, Lee College, Lone Star College, and San Jacinto College), Texas Tech (with Amarillo College, Austin Community College, Houston Community College, Navarro College, among others), Texas State (Austin Community College-Hays Campus), and Baylor (Collin College).

6. It doesn’t matter in the end

The funny thing about diplomas is that they only show one school—the one you graduated from. Whether you transferred as a junior or were involved with the university from your freshman year, your degrees will say the same thing. There will be no discrimination; your diploma won’t have asterisks, and employers will not look at your résumé and disqualify you just because you spent some time at a community college. What’s going to matter in the end is that you have a degree and you have a winning attitude.

So, don’t be afraid to consider community colleges! If you find that this is something you want to do, there are a few things to consider:

  • If your end goal is to transfer out, make sure you do the legwork to keep your GPA up. Get involved in school activities on campus, and get to know your professors. Don’t fall for the stereotype that community colleges are easy or your grades will suffer.
  • Be sure to take transferable classes. Talk to your college counselors or the counselors at the schools you want to transfer to and get the information from them. You can also compare transferable credits at: http://www.tccns.org/default.aspx

Whether it’s the four-year or the transfer way to a degree, in the end, the choice is up to you. Believe in yourself. And always remember: “It’s not who you are that holds you back, it’s what you think you are not.” – Dennis Waitley

– Hugo R.

  • Mai McCarthy

    Really well said, Hugo! Community Colleges are definitely great alternatives to four-year institutions, whether at first, or in the long-run. They also tend to have some pretty cool, atypical classes too!