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Everyone knows community colleges are cheaper than just about any other option. But I’ve found that going to community college gave me some advantages now that I’m finishing my degree at a university.
1. Small Class Sizes/Lecture Hall Avoidance
Yup, this is something of a cliche, since just about every college pamphlet I’ve seen advertises a low student-to-faculty ratio, or something like that. But often, introductory classes at larger universities meet in lecture halls, with as many as a few hundred students in the room. Regardless of how many students there are per faculty member, larger schools often need to be efficient this way, especially in 100 and 200 level courses where the material is less in-depth. Meanwhile, I don’t think I ever had a class at my community college with more than 50 students, and usually that was closer to 30. The teachers almost always knew my name, and if I had a question, I could walk up to them after class and ask, rather than having to make an appointment, send an email, or visit office hours.
By the time you get to the university, you will have finished most classes that would normally take place in lecture halls at community college, and move on to the upper-level courses that usually have small class sizes. Going to community college allowed me to almost completely bypass lecture halls.
2. More Opportunities to Job-Shadow
I’m going into a somewhat medical profession, and all the professionals in that field in my college town are inundated with requests to job-shadow. Meanwhile, I was more or less the only undergraduate student emailing the professionals in my hometown. If you go to a college with a specialty program, the professionals in that town will probably be overwhelmed by college students. If you go to a community college, the local professionals in your field of choice will probably love to have you. This makes community colleges a solid choice if you are looking to choose a major or explore careers.
3. Great freedom in independent study opportunities
When I finished most of my degree requirements, my adviser suggested I pursue an internship or independent study. I spoke to the internship coordinator, who pointed out a few professors I had classes with in the past who would help me. The professor I asked was quite happy to help me, the study was quite easy to set up, and I had great freedom in what I would study and a lot of options for my final project.
Of course, there are opportunities for independent study at my university as well, but they are much more structured. Every senior in my major writes a final capstone paper, and there is an opportunity to do additional research as an independent study. This is nothing like being able to ask a professor “Hey, can you work with me on an independent study on subject X?”
4. Bypassing the freshman-year hurdles
At my school, like many schools, freshman are required to live in the dorms and buy a meal plan. Some people may like this idea, and I know many people choose to continue doing this post freshman-year. But the dorm lifestyle is one that is hard on introverts such as myself, and even though the meal plan food is good, there is great freedom in being able to buy, cook, and eat things that you choose to. As a transfer, I didn’t have to deal with freshman red tape, and was able to live off-campus and eat what I wanted to.
5. Knowing your interests, strengths, and weaknesses before spending a lot to go to school
When I started community college, I had a few vague ideas about what kind of classes I liked and disliked. Going to community college made my interests so much clearer to me, especially thanks to my independent study, in which I job-shadowed a professional in the field I wanted to go into. I probably would have started out a teaching major and then changed majors, had I gone into a bigger university right away, and major changes cost time and money.
I also learned how many credits I could handle, and how many hours per week I could work while at school, which is valuable information for further college planning.
Whether you choose a community college or a larger university, keep these factors in mind. I know that some students take summer courses from community colleges while home on break from their universities to get cheaper credits in a smaller class. That way, it’s possible to attend community college while also attending a larger university. Everybody has to get their gen ed credits done, and community colleges are, in most cases, the best way to do that.
This was originally a post on my blog, https://amateuradvising.blogspot.com/. Send the link to the future college students in your life, since what I’m writing is most helpful for somebody making their first few choices about school, such as high schoolers unsure what college preparations should look like. (At least, I hope it’s helpful.)Published in