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Reasons You Should Attend Community College
The Time Has Come
It is summer time, and instead of thinking about vacation, this is the time of year some people begin to think about the future. In many cases, students are just graduating from high school and trying to determine their next course of action. This is a major decision in life, but I would like to help suggest one thing: community college.
Community college had a rather mediocre reputation for many years, but now all that has changed. Community college often offers challenging classes taught by professors that could or are already teaching at other 4 year institutions. In fact, I found many of my community college classes to be as challenging and in-depth as many of the classes I took at a 4 year college later on. Many students opt to transfer after two years to a 4 year college, but it is also possible to get a certificate or Associate's Degree and head right into the workforce.
Aside from recent high school graduates, plenty of adults that have been working for years opt to go to a community college. Community colleges offer excellent prices, scholarship opportunities, flexible scheduling, and many program options. Community colleges are also a great place to meet others in your situation. There are tutors, remedial classes, and computer labs with helpers available to those of you that may be a little nervous about going back to school. Community colleges have so much to offer, so give it a try!
The most obvious reason many people choose a community college over a four-year college is the cost. Attending a community college full-time is typically about 1/3 the price of attending a public college or university. If you are considering going to a private college, that is even more expensive than a public college most of the time, so you could be cutting even more costs by attending a community college.
When you go away to a four-year college, it is sometimes a good idea to stay in a dorm or an on-campus apartment. Even though that is convenient, the cost is often higher and not included in the costs I listed above. The costs listed above is only taking into consideration tuition and fees. If you must stay in a dorm when attending a four-year college, but you could live rent-free with parents if you go to community college, you are obviously cutting costs even more by staying home.
If your finances are not that great, you can still fill out a FAFSA form online for community college. The FAFSA will help determine if you quality for any grants, loans, work-study programs, etc. Also, it is likely there are scholarships offered through the community college and you simply need to apply to them to see if you qualify. I've found that even if you don't qualify the first year you attend community college, if you do really well academically and then try again later, you may qualify for scholarships at that time.
Four Years of College is Not for Everyone
OK, I am going to say it - going away to college is not for everyone. However, I feel community college will benefit just about anyone out there. Let me give you some examples.
Bob just graduated high school, but he did not get accepted into any colleges. Bob is great at driving. He actually passed his driver's test on the first try. Bob is the guy that chauffeurs all his friends around and even drives Grandma to Bingo on Friday nights. Most community colleges offer courses to earn a CDL license so a person can become a commercial truck driver. I don't know about you, but every time I look at the Help Wanted ads, companies are looking to hire drivers. A community college program for drivers is an excellent way for Bob to start a career that pays well doing something he enjoys.
Carrie has been working at dead end jobs for a while and wants a change. She has no desire to go to school full-time or attend a four-year college. However, she'd like to began working at an office, preferably in a law office. Her community college offers certificate programs for legal assistants, as well as an Associate's Degree in Paralegal Studies. Now she can continue to work full-time and attend a couple of classes each semester. Within a year, she'll have a certificate; within 4 years (going part-time), she will have an Associate's Degree. She can also use her community college's career center to help her find a job in a law office.
Mark is 60 years old and he's been laid off from work for a while. He never went to college, but always wished he did. Mark goes to his local community college, discusses his situation, and finds out he can apply for a scholarship for older adults. Within no time, he is able to attend classes using his scholarship money. Since he is out of work, he also qualifies for some grants and work-study money. He doesn't mind working along side the other college students since he is learning new skills. Mark is also taking advantage of the computer lab at his college. Someone is on-site to help him with any questions he has about the technology he hasn't used before. Within a year, he has a certificate in computer graphics and the career center helps him find a job.
Practical Life Skills
As a person that attended a community college, a small private college, and a public university, I can tell you there are differences between each one. A difference that is starting to become more evident to me at my office are the practical life skills learned at a community college. I feel 4 year colleges may be lacking in these options.
At my office, it seems like every time someone leaves, a person fresh out of college replaces that employee. I understand this keeps costs down because they will work for less pay, but it means that in most cases, we are starting with a person that often has zero experience working at an office. I've also noticed those that attended 4 year colleges the entire 4 years versus attending a community college for at least one year are less prepared for an office environment.
I believe the reason for this is community colleges focus on getting someone into a career. Many community colleges also help transfer students, but they know it is just as likely that a community college student wants to learn the skills to get a job immediately. For this reason, many community colleges offer classes on office procedures and etiquette, increasing typing speed, Microsoft Office Suite, and other helpful office-related classes. In many instances, those classes are required. At 4 year colleges, you don't find those classes, or if you do, they are few and far between. This is why I now spend my days training new employees on Excel basics, why leggings are not a substitute for dress pants, and how to put a caller on hold.
Even if you do plan on attending a 4 year college for the entire 4 years, do yourself a favor and attend a few helpful classes at community college. You might believe you are heading for an amazing career, but in this economy, you are more likely to work as a receptionist at your first job... if you can get a job at all. If you want to work at an office, it will be helpful for you to know office basics and how to properly use computer programs that will be important to your future success.
I can't stress this enough - work as a student assistant or work-study student worker while attending college! It has been my experience that a community college often has many work opportunities for students. Even if you are attending a 4 year college, hop into the career center and see what is available for you.
I do realize most college students are already working. Obviously if you are working as a waitress and making hundreds of dollars in one weekend, it might seem silly to work for minimum wage as a student worker. However, in the long run it pays off. Even if you only work 10 hours a week at an office on campus, you are getting work experience. It is also something you can put on a resume.
Here's another tip for you - you can still work at a different job that pays better at the same time while you work part-time on campus. Student assistant jobs typically have extremely flexible hours. If you have a nice boss, you might even be able to work on homework or study when it is slow at the job. You can work as a waitress on the weekend or at night, and then work as a student assistant between classes. I used to work 2 or 3 student assistant jobs at once to make ends meet and it gave me plenty of work experience. No one at any of my full-time jobs after graduation had to bother teaching me Office Skills 101.
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Options, Options, Options
Whether you'd like to take a fun creative writing class for no credits or you'd like to transfer to a 4 year college one day, your community college can help you with either. There are plenty of classes to help you increase your skills for employment. There are also many classes that will be transferable when you go to a different college (make sure to ask an advisor for recommended classes). You can also take plenty of adult learning classes to teach you how to be an electrician, plumber, mechanic, etc. Community college has something for everyone!
If you are working, a community college often offers flexible scheduling. Maybe you only want to take classes in the morning. Perhaps you'd like to only take night classes because of your job. You can often take a majority (or all) classes online. The choice is yours!
College may not be for everybody, but I do feel community colleges offer such a wide variety of options, that practically anyone can find something appealing. I even found out some of the local community colleges in my area are offering "ghost hunting" classes on weekends. Who knew? It doesn't matter what you are into, if you've got the desire to learn, you are bound to benefit from attending community college.
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