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do you think it is smarter to go to community college first or to a university first?

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i am going to college next year and i am just not quite sure which to pick #teaching #teacher #colleges #principal #friends #community #parents

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14 answers

Ethan’s Answer

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Your undergraduate degree is going to be from whatever university you go to, and that's what's going to matter the most. Taking a year or two and knocking off some general credits at a community college is way cheaper and may be a good place for you to try lots of new things and get an idea of what you want to do when you do finally go to college.


I sometimes think people go to college too early. It's extremely expensive, and younger students generally don't really get the full benefit out of it. That said though, while my grades suffered and set me back career wise, in many ways, I personally thought the typical freshmen college experience I got was worth it. I also went to small private school, far away from home, and known for partying, and I was a person who had no social life in high school, so it was still a learning experience.


That said, if you are going to spend the money on community college, be absolutely sure that whatever schools you are applying to are going to accept your credit. The cost savings of going to CC kind of fly out the window if none of the classes you take can actually push you closer to your Bachelor's degree, which ultimately is what you're trying to get.


In NJ, all the community colleges can transfer all of their credits into the state school system (Rutgers, TCNJ, Etc) However, I know that the school I went to, Lehigh, did not always accept transfer credits from even other 4-year colleges, let alone a CC. Based on your town name, I'm guessing you're in California, which is lucky as they have an excellent state school system. Look up how the Cal State and UC systems treat community college credits. That may end up being the most important factor in your decision.

Thanks this is some really great advice, I have taken some classes at my local community college while I was going to high school and over the summer Maeve K. Translate
Thanks for the advice! Community college is definitely a great option, yet there's still some stigma surrounding it which doesn't really make sense to me. Andrea H. Translate
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Vivian’s Answer

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YES! That was the route I took and I'm glad I did. I saved two years in the money I would have spent in expensive UC/SU classes and by staying at home. Sure I missed out on living in the dorms, but my advantage was that I got to really figure out want I want to pursue as a major in college, since the courses at a junior college was so much cheaper. I had friends who went to UC, got a bunch of debt and ended up in the same junior college next year, because they couldn't decide what to do and the cost was piling up. Definitely research, before you make that decision.


Dream big, Vivian

Than you for including your personal experience! Junior college is definitely a good option. Andrea H. Translate
You're welcome Jamie. Considering the rise in tuition cost, it would be a good route to take all the requirements before paying the top dollars for your major. :) Vivian Urata Translate
Thank you for sharing your experience Maeve K. Translate
You're welcome! :) Vivian Urata Translate
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Andrea’s Answer

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I think it depends on the type of experience you want, and the resources you currently have. I went to a community college and did what Vivian did, save money! Not only did I save money, but I took additional courses there because the cost was significantly less. I felt more inclined to try new classes for career and personal growth. I was also able to get an internship at the community college and got a lot of work experience as well. You get what you put into it. If you attend a community college, look at the student groups, visit professors during office hours, apply for internships, all of those things will prepare you for a university and later down the road.

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Rachel’s Answer

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<span style="background-color: transparent;">Collegeboard.org is a great resource for this! I poured through the pages of universities all over the U.S. when I was a senior in high school. Collegeboard was my go-to site! They put all of the information in one place and it is very easy to use. They even have various filters you can apply to see only colleges that have programs you are interested. To determine academic rigor, look at the admissions requirements, G.P.A. of past admitted applicants, SAT/ACT scores, class rank etc. This will give you an idea of what scores and grades you need to be accepted. However, don't be discouraged your application will be reviewed based on the full picture! College-board will help you get an idea of what is most important to the specific school you are applying to.</span>


This professional recommends the following next steps:

  • <span style="background-color: transparent;">Chat with your Guidance Counselor</span>
  • <span style="background-color: transparent;">Create a Collegeboard.org account</span>
  • <span style="background-color: transparent;">Start using CollegeBoard as a resource to look up schools.</span>


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Mallory’s Answer

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I offer a perspective of attending a university all 4 years while taking a few CC credits between high school and leaving to attend a university out of state. I truly loved the experience of being at a university. The individual growth, relationships made, and on-campus experience is unparalleled to many other experiences in life. I attended private school and had personal relationships with nearly all of my professors. Many of them offered great internship and career advice.


Of the few CC courses I took, I found the class work to be quite a bit easier and requiring less time investment. It was a good alternative to complete general course requirements. A personal trade-off of choosing to attend a university all 4 years is that I am paying back some student loans currently. Like some of the other comments communicated - so much of it depends on the experience you want and the resources that you have available to you. There are strong merits to both options. Good luck! :)

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Cam’s Answer

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If you have a scholarship likely better to go to a University. However my recommendation is to go to Community College and get a transfer degree. This is an associate degree that will transfer all credits to a university in your state. You will save a lot of money and can just list your bachelor degree.and on your resume you just list where you got your University degree.

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Kate’s Answer

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This can be a tough decision to make. If you get the change, try visiting both. See if you can interact with some of the current students through a tour and try to attend a class or two at each. Hopefully, you'll be able to get a good feel for each school and it will help you decide which one is better for you.


Choosing which school you attend is a big decision and the peers you come in contact with and the professors you have can really help shape your future career. Best of luck with your decision!

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Pam’s Answer

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Great question! I think it depends on if you get a scholarship and where you net out the best.

Some community colleges will give you a full ride if your GPA is high enough. If you get that, it makes sense to start at a community college and then transfer to a 4 year college.

If cost is a factor, community college will always be cheaper. And, although not quite the same, you can still have a great experience at a 2 year college.

If cost is not a factor or if you get a substantial scholarship to a 4 year college, then go with the 4 year.

Either way, have a great time while still staying focused on your studies. :)

Pam recommends the following next steps:

  • Determine scholarship opportunities and apply
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Brenda’s Answer

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Depends on what your budget is and what you would like to pursue a degree in. Community colleges are typically much cheaper than university's. If you start at a communicate college but know you would like to transfer to a university at a later date, make sure that the classes you've taken will transfer to the new school-otherwise, you'll find that you have to take them again.
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Tetyana’s Answer

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Hi! I think that it is better to start in the community college first, especially if you are not sure what you would like to be in the future. A few years in community college will help you to decide what your major will be and whether you would like to continue education or not. It is way cheaper to start your higher education in community college

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Steve’s Answer

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Hello Jamie,

Going to junior or community college (for, say, 2 years or so) and then transferring to a 4-yr university is a great game plan! Here's why...

1) SAVE MONEY - Get all of those General Ed requirements out of the way at a very low cost

2) GET USED TO COLLEGE - Not quite ready to jump from high school to mega-University? No problem! Use your time at a junior college to get familiar with the college experience and having more autonomy.

3) TUNE UP - If you need to brush up on some of your academic skills (e.g. English, Math, etc.), you can do that easily with all of courses and support resources available at junior colleges

4) GET A CLUE - Maybe you're not sure yet what you want to major in. That's ok, because you can explore all kinds of classes at a junior college and find out what subjects really interest you. Check out their career-oriented clubs too.

5) TRANSFER ASSISTANCE - Many junior colleges have formal programs to guide students who know they want to transfer to a university. They can often provide detailed recommendations for which courses to take, and in some cases may even offer guaranteed admission via relationships they have with many universities.

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Lisa’s Answer

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Personally, I went to junior college first and I liked it for several reasons. It is a smaller campus, more cozy, less crowded class size, and lower tuition. However, it takes longer to graduate because they are on a semester system verses the quarter system. And in my personal opinion I find the campus are more beautiful than the university campus. Good luck on your study.

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Pam’s Answer

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Great question! I think it depends on if you get a scholarship and where you net out the best.

Some community colleges will give you a full ride if your GPA is high enough. If you get that, it makes sense to start at a community college and then transfer to a 4 year college.

If cost is a factor, community college will always be cheaper. And, although not quite the same, you can still have a great experience at a 2 year college.

If cost is not a factor or if you get a substantial scholarship to a 4 year college, then go with the 4 year.

Either way, have a great time while still staying focused on your studies. :)

Pam recommends the following next steps:

  • Determine scholarship opportunities and apply
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Stuart’s Answer

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I'm a counselor at a community college, so my advice is going to be somewhat biased in that direction. I also attended community college myself. That said, there are benefits to both, and many have already been mentioned.


First thing that occurs to me: If you do opt to go to community college, be proud of that decision. I see no reason to gloss over or conceal the fact that you did. Community college is a very practical, economic, sensible decision. It's a good opportunity to identify what interests you (without paying through the nose for your missteps). And it's a good way to ease into your newfound independence and freedom.


I can definitely see the argument for going straight to a university, however. I greatly appreciated my experiences at community college. They were what I needed at that time. That said, attending a four-year school (especially if you opt to live away from home) is going to be a very different experience from community college. The social, intellectual, and other opportunities available at a university will be broader than those offered at the community college. It's a question of resources. Happily, if you do a transfer degree at a community college, you're going to get the best of both worlds. You'll get the campus experience of a university and the practical benefits of an economic general education.


I've heard the theory that classes are easier at a community college. In my experience, both as a student and as a student services professional, that isn't the case. I think that perception stems from the fact that people are strictly doing 100- and 200-level courses at a community college (because that's what we offer), whereas they're doing 100- through 400-level classes at a four-year school. So yes, a 200-level literature class at a community college is going to seem quite a bit easier than a 400-level literature class at a university. But I think you'll find that, between 200-level literature classes at one setting or the other, they'll be essentially the same.


Ultimately, it will come down to priorities. Are the financial considerations your priority? Or are you in a position (and of an inclination) to focus on that campus life aspect? (You don't actually need to answer those questions for anyone but yourself, and perhaps whomever is paying your tuition.)


Finally, remember that you don't necessarily have to stay at a community college for a full two years. To take advantage of guaranteed admission agreements with universities, earn an associate's degree, etc., you'll need to log about two (full-time) years. But if you go to community college, do well in your classes, and decide you want to transfer sooner rather than later, you can. Any courses you took there will just be fewer courses you need to take at the university.


Depending on how many credits you've earned when you make that decision, the university may regard you as a transfer student. It may regard you as a high school student who happens to have some college credit. It really depends. (About 24 to 30 credits is a safe threshold for working out whether you'll be considered a transfer student or not.)


The key to all of this is to excel in your classes. If you do well in classes, you have choices. You choose when and where to transfer. A good GPA means options for you. Simple as that.


Does that make sense?

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