Decisions, decisions, decisions… Perhaps you are trying to decide whether a community college or a university is best for you, especially if you are going to be an incoming freshman soon. Well it’s simply a matter of determining your educational needs, what you expect to accomplish from the school, your SAT or ACT scores, your GPA, and other criterion assessment, depending upon the school. Let's take a close look at some important facts about community colleges and universities and what each has to offer so that hopefully you will be able to make a smart decision concerning your education.
Community colleges, also called junior colleges, are two-year schools where you can obtain either your degree in your desired discipline or a certificate. The highest degree you can receive is an Associate in Arts. However, you can transfer these classes over to a university at the completion of your program towards your bachelor's degree, provided that it is an accredited school and that you choose general education courses. Keep in mind that these are the same classes that you would ordinarily take at a university anyway but only at a cheaper cost to you. Community colleges are far less expensive than universities and are therefore more affordable. The classroom sizes at community colleges are much smaller than those at universities, and you could possibly have a better rapport with your instructors. Community colleges usually do not provide accommodations for on-campus housing (dorms). An important factor in determining whether or not you should attend a community college is how well you scored on your ACT or SAT. Most universities require that you meet or exceed the minimum admissions score before you can gain acceptance into their college. So if you did not meet the minimum requirement you can reschedule to take the test again…but if you score below the admissions requirement once again, you can apply to a junior college. Of course the community college will not have that university feel, but it will help prepare you for the university level. So if you don’t think that you are psychologically mature enough or academically prepared (low GPA) to attend a university then you will probably be better off attending a community college to start. Nevertheless, even if you scored high on your test and did exceptionally well academically, you may still opt to attend a community college for various reasons and that’s totally your choice.
A university is a structured four-year institution where you can obtain your bachelors, Masters, and Doctorate degrees. In the first place, some individuals prefer to go away to college because they believe the experience will help them mature and become more self-sufficient. You will have the option of staying on-campus at a university until you complete your educational requirements to graduate. Some students eventually move off-campus to live in affordable housing close to their school. Aforementioned, you can transfer your classes from a community college to a university. However, you should verify with the university that the classes you select are transferable to their institution. If you receive an associate’s degree from a community college, you will only have to complete two more years of schooling to receive your bachelor’s degree in your field of interest, provided that you register as a full-time student and pass all of your classes. Whether you decide to stay on campus or not, you will learn that your experiences at the university will be much different than being at a junior college. First of all, you will have interactions with students who are at different levels in their education, from under grads to graduate level and above. Second, the classroom sizes are usually much larger and are positioned for auditorium style seating. Third, you will have to learn to navigate your way around an enormous complex. But at this point, you should have reached a higher maturity level and should be able to adjust to the changes at the university level. One thing to remember when seeking a university to attend is that private schools are usually more expensive than state schools. Now if you are fortunate to receive grants and scholarship awards to finance your education this will certainly help defray the cost of your educational expenses.
Educational expenses are a huge determining factor in deciding which college is most fitting for you. You should take time to investigate the cost of your educational expenses before you start the application process. Be sure to take into account your tuition expenses, book expenses, fees, food, transportation, miscellaneous expenses, and room and board, if applicable. You should keep in mind that staying on-campus would drive up the cost of your educational expenses considerably. How do you plan to finance your education anyway? How much can you afford to pay with cash? Are you eligible for financial aid? Will you receive scholarships and/or grants? Do you plan to apply for student loans? These are questions that you will need to address beforehand.
Degree you are pursuing
When selecting a school, make sure that it offers the classes and degree program of your interest. Bear in mind that some schools are more reputable for its degree programs than others. For example, if you decide to major in nursing, you should try to find a school that has an outstanding nursing program.
Quality of education
Keep in mind that the quality of education that you receive from an accredited community college is not necessarily less than that of a university. However, you can contact the department of education accreditation database to find out whether or not the college you’re interested in- is accredited, if you’re in doubt. This association maintains a list of accredited colleges, universities, and online schools. Verifying Accreditation is very important in that you want to make sure that degree you opt to receive is valid. It’s also a good idea to research to find out whether the college has a good reputation for providing quality education. Understandably, some colleges are more elite than others but the bottom line is the quality of education that you receive and being assured that the school you choose is officially recognized- regardless of its status.
*apply for FAFSA online to see if you qualify for financial aid at http://www.fafsa.ed.gov/
*apply for your FAFSA in January when there are more funds available