As an academic advisor for STEM students at a 4-year institution, I see a lot of transfer students coming from community colleges. The only advantage that I see in going to community college first is cost - i.e. if you are paying out of pocket or through a loan, community college can be cheaper. Yet, depending on the major you want to pursue, community college might not be your best choice for cost saving.
If you are seeking to do a STEM major, or any major where there is a strict course sequence chain, you will probably need to start with your STEM classes from your very first semester if you want to graduate as quickly as possible. The strategy of taking your general education courses first and then transferring to a 4-year university does not work for all majors. Students who transfer in some STEM majors from community college may end up being eligible to take only a couple of classes per semester for one, two or three semesters, thus prolonging their path to graduation. For example, at my school all computing majors start with Programming I and Programming II, and until a student completes Programming II, they cannot take any other classes in their major. In the end, it may end up being more expensive, not cheaper to start at community college. So it really depends on the major you want to pursue and what the specific community college can offer in terms of classes counting towards this major.
Another consideration is the rigor of the classes offered by the community college. For example, we often have students come in with Programming I and II credit from community colleges, only to find out that what they learned at their courses does not match the depth/breadth of the classes at our institution, i.e. they find themselves unprepared for the higher level courses that have Programming II as a prerequisite. Thus, again, it is a matter of researching what a particular community college offers in terms of your academic and career goals.
If your chief motivation for starting at a community college is cost-cutting, there are other ways to do that. Many colleges accept CLEP https://clep.collegeboard.org/ credits to satisfy general education requirements; Students can complete free online classes to prepare for the CLEP exams offered by the nonprofit Modern States https://modernstates.org/ , who also offer vouchers to cover the cost of the exam itself. I routinely recommend this option to my advisees.
I would recommend that you meet with an academic advisor from the 4-year institution that you may be interested in to discuss your plans and path - they should be able to guide you.
Anna recommends the following next steps:
- research your options with regard to a specific major you are interested in