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Starting at Community College
Community colleges (CCs) provide affordability and access for higher education, but they are not always popular options. Too often, people view CCs as backups for students who can’t get into “good” schools. Yes, it’s true that some CC students have dismal high school records. Some will eventually drop out of CCs due to lack of motivation and/or maturity. However, this same lack of engagement is found at many four-year colleges (there is only a 60% graduation rate for four-year colleges). The truth is, community college is the right place for the right student at the right time.
Who should start at community college?
Community college is ideal for the student who knows that continuing their education is the key to a better future, but is unsure of where to start. This student might be unsure of what they are most interested in or what their strengths are. Community colleges, when not free, are reasonably priced, giving students opportunities to try courses they might otherwise not have a chance to explore. At CCs, students can take low-pressure risks and perhaps find their passions while also giving them more time to mature.
CC for the unsure student
A good example of this is a very capable young man named James, who was unsure of what to do post high school. Since his parents bought into the idea that a four-year college is the proper route, they convinced James that he should attend (despite his lack of enthusiasm). Since James “somewhat liked to read books,” he majored in English (despite his lack of enthusiasm). As it turned out, James took a broad array of literature classes that he did not always enjoy when forced to read. In his very last semester (he graduated in three and a half years), James took a JAVA class, which was the start of his current career.
Career prep at CCs
James came home in December and enrolled in a few computer classes at the local community college. He found that web development was his thing, and everything fell into place thereafter. First came the paid internship (which often leads to a job offer) in web development. Next came the part-time job as a junior web developer at a software company. The best part of these opportunities was learning hands-on from the ground up. Before even graduating, James landed a job as an entry level web developer at a progressive local startup.
Pride of ownership
One important thing to note is the motivation that came with navigating CC and career path. James found his internship/jobs and navigated/paid for his own college on his own. With his AAS in Computer Science and some real work experience, James is now the lead web developer at that startup. He makes a fine salary, but most importantly, in his words, he “likes waking up to a job you can enjoy.” Yea, we hear you, James!
Not everyone wants the “college experience”
Before closing, I must confide that James is my son. Like so many well-intentioned parents, we erroneously bought into the idea that a four-year college is the only way to go. James was a hardworking student with better than average grades. We thought that community college would cheat him of the “full college experience” (one he couldn’t wait to leave!). A four-year college is ideal for students who want to take advantage of all that campus offers. After all, those special event speakers, sport events, and clubs are all funded by tuition dollars. For others, a two-year college or gap year (a post for another day!) is the right choice. It really comes down to the student and their unique personality.
If you are reading this post to the end, perhaps you are thinking about community college as an option. Maybe take a class or two at your local CC to get a feel for higher ed. Oh, did I mention that CC would have been free right after high school? Right now, nearly half of our US states offer free CC, with more to come.
I should add that my feelings about starting at community college is not only from personal experience as a parent. I have teaching experience in higher education, both at CCs and private four-year institutions. Good luck, and if you have any questions, feel free to email me at [email protected]
See also: Top Reasons to Attend Community College