Attending a two-year college can benefit your lifestyle, finances, and career opportunities.
As you think about your college plans, your vision may be centered on a four-year program. But that’s definitely not your only option. There are also community colleges, which offer mostly two-year programs like associate degrees and certificates.
Some people choose a degree program that finishes in the two years they attend community college, while others use it as a starting point and transfer to a four-year college or university. And some community colleges even offer four-year bachelor’s programs for certain majors such as nursing or electronics engineering.
The benefits of community college
Community colleges are more affordable and accessible than four-year colleges and universities, and class schedules can be more flexible. For some lifestyles and career paths, community college can actually be a better fit. Let’s dive a little deeper into the benefits.
1) Two-year colleges save you money
Going to community college may be a smart financial choice. Here’s why:
- The tuition at community colleges is generally lower than that of four-year colleges and universities.
- Even if you transfer to a four-year school afterwards, starting at a community college lets you get a bunch of credits under your belt at a lower cost. (If this is your plan, confirm in advance that credits will indeed transfer so you don’t end up paying twice for the same class. Some community colleges actually have agreements with four-year schools that can guarantee admission and credit transfer.)
- If you attend a local community college, you can also save on housing costs by living at home and commuting to school.
2) Community colleges can have more flexible schedules
Do you need to go to school at night or on the weekends? If so, community colleges, which tend to offer more of these class times, might be a good fit. This is especially beneficial for:
- Students who have already entered the working world, or who plan to work during college.
- Non-traditional students such as parents who are returning to school.
- Part-time students. If you need to take a lighter course load to accommodate other parts of your life (and therefore take a few extra semesters to finish), a less expensive school may make sense.
3) Not every student is ready for a four-year college
Some people graduate high school knowing exactly what career path they want to follow, and some of those jobs only require an associates degree or certificate. In that case, community college is the perfect fit. Other students aren’t quite sure what they want to study, and a less expensive option gives them the opportunity to explore. Additionally, some people may find a community college to be a more supportive environment—classes tend to be smaller, and the culture can be less competitive. For students who need a little time to develop academic skills, it can be a smart choice.
4) Community college can prepare you for your career
One major reason to go to college is to prepare you to find a job in your chosen field. You may be interested in a career that you can train for at a two-year college. And, starting at a community college can help you get into a better four-year school than if you’d gone that route straight out of high school.
Making a decision
Community college isn’t the right choice for everyone. But for many students, it’s something to at least consider. When deciding between two-year and four-year schools, think about your financial constraints, the learning environment you’re looking for, what you want to get out of the college experience, and the career path you hope to pursue.