Not every student is ready to head off to a traditional four-year college just a couple months after graduating from high school.
And that’s okay.
In fact, for a growing number of high school graduates, a year or two of community college is a great way to get started on a bachelor’s degree, while reaping the benefits of living at or close to home. After attending community college—which is also much less expensive than a traditional college—a student can transfer to a four-year college or what’s called a senior college (basically, a college that offers a junior and senior year) to complete his or her bachelor’s degree.
But, says Thalia Thompson, an advisor at Norwalk Community College in Connecticut (and founder College Admissions Coaching), there are a couple of caveats for students taking this route. Here are her top three tips:
1. Be cautious about your major. “You want to choose you major very carefully. I often recommend liberal arts and sciences as a major because half of bachelor’s degrees will be liberal arts and sciences anyway. If you have a 120-credit bachelor’s degree, roughly 60 or even up to 70 credits will be liberal arts and science in nature. So, it’s best to take those at the two-year college,” she explains.
2. Get great grades. “The other thing is you’ve got to do well. You can’t have a 2.0 grade point average and expect to transfer to a four-year college easily,” Thompson adds.
3. Be involved. In addition to working hard at the academics, consider joining a club or other activities at your community college that can help your application to a bachelor’s-degree granting institution when the time comes.
Meanwhile, community colleges are also a place to earn an associate’s degree or complete a certificate program, which train students for work in a specific industry. “There are an awful lot of good programs that student can do in a couple of years, while also working in that industry in an internship,” notes P. Carol Jones, author of Toward College Success: Is Your Teenager Ready, Willing, and Able?. “For example, our community college has a two-year certificate in welding. Apparently, there is a huge shortage of welders, and these students have a job starting at $19 an hour before they even finish. And, that’s just one example.”