What is the community college experience?
The community college experience can be a great educational adventureOnce upon a time, the community college was barely considered a college. According to popular mythology, a two-year college was a dead end, and people who chose junior colleges never went anywhere.
But now, here you are, considering a community college for your own education. And you're probably wondering what is the community college experience compared to a university.
Here are some of the big differences (and similarities) between two-year and four-year colleges, and what you can expect.
The myth exploded
Let's start with the myth. Whether you start your college education at a four year university or a two year junior college, the only limit on where you can go in life is you. Many a successful doctor, lawyer, engineer, or other high-achiever started their education at a community college. So don't let the label discourage you.
Sticker shock, reduced
In these times of economic woes and job uncertainty, a community college can mean much lower tuition bills. And if you choose a school near home, you may be able to save on living expenses as well by staying with mom and dad for a couple more years. That could mean less student loans, and more time available for heading to class instead of heading to work.
A wide variety of majors and classes
While some large universities may offer more choices in college majors, most community colleges offer as many majors as four year colleges. And the class selections are usually comparable as well.
Remember, the college course catalog at a university will be bigger because it includes upper level and usually graduate level classes as well. A community college can focus on providing the right classes for the first two years.
A more committed student body
There is no doubt that the university experience can be a lot of fun. Between parties, Greek fraternities and sororities, and dorm life, the attraction of four years of fun with classes a few hours a week draws a lot of students in, even if they're not really committed to learning.
But the community college experience is different. Because these two year school typically don't have the party life, most of the students who are there are intent on learning. And that can turn the same 101 level Freshman course from a time-filler to an engaging learning opportunity.
A harder time making the break
One of the drawbacks to a community college is that living at or near home can make it harder to make the shift from teenager to adult. If your parents still provide you with meals, do your laundry or pay for your car, it can be tough to feel like you've grown up at all.
You may need to work on making the shift, whether it involves paying a small amount of rent, taking on more household responsibilities or paying your own car expenses.
At a university, professors are often focused on research and publication. That's why lower level classes are often taught by grad students..
The community college experience is different, for both instructors and students. Teachers at a community college are often practitioners in their field, sometimes with years of experience in the real world. And because there is no research or publishing pressure, their entire focus can be on teaching.
This makes the student experience different, too. Community college students get to learn from people who have gone beyond theory in books, and can add in real-life tests and trials.
In the end, it's all up to you
Whether you're attending a community college to save money or to stay closer to home for a couple more years, you can have a wonderful learning experience. With a focus on learning, and your eye on your goals, anything is possible after you finish those first two years.