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What is Community College? 

By Cait Williams

Cait Williams is a Content Writer at Scholarships360. Cait recently graduated from Ohio University with a degree in Journalism and Strategic Communications. During her time at OU, was active in the outdoor recreation community.

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Reviewed by Caitlyn Cole

Caitlyn Cole is a college access professional with a decade of experience in non-profit program and project management for college readiness and access organizations.

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Edited by Maria Geiger

Maria Geiger is Director of Content at Scholarships360. She is a former online educational technology instructor and adjunct writing instructor. In addition to education reform, Maria’s interests include viewpoint diversity, blended/flipped learning, digital communication, and integrating media/web tools into the curriculum to better facilitate student engagement. Maria earned both a B.A. and an M.A. in English Literature from Monmouth University, an M. Ed. in Education from Monmouth University, and a Virtual Online Teaching Certificate (VOLT) from the University of Pennsylvania.

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Updated: November 29th, 2023
What is Community College? 

If you’ve ever made any big purchases in your life, you have probably spent quite a bit of time researching and comparing what it is you are planning to buy. Your college education is no different. It’s a huge investment financially, which means no college search is complete unless you look into community colleges. So, let’s explore them together and see if community college could be the place for you to start your higher education journey! 

What is community college? 

A community college is a college that generally serves local or nearby communities. They usually offer technical, vocational, and associate degrees, though some do offer full bachelor degree programs. And the best part is, they do all of this at a fraction of the cost!  

Community colleges are designed for people who are just starting their higher education journey, those coming back to school, those looking to switch careers, and everyone in between. Community colleges are also somewhere that high school students can take college courses for credit!  

Related: How many credits is an associate degree?

Who attends community college? 

One of the many beautiful things about community college is that it’s not just designed for young students who are newly graduated. Community college is for everyone! It’s generally more flexible because those who attend community college may have one or multiple jobs, families, or other things outside of school to handle.  

Stereotypes about community colleges

Before we get too far though, let’s address something important: stereotypes about community colleges. During your college research you may have heard things about community college that just aren’t true. Maybe some people have told you it’s where people who can’t get into a “real school” go, or that it’s not as good of an education, but those things aren’t true! 

Community colleges are fully accredited and equipped with the same types of professors that you would find at any four year college, and some even have dorms! It is true that community colleges generally have higher acceptance rates, but that does not mean that the workload is any easier. Remember to keep an open mind and formulate your own opinions based on fact and experience. Do not base your opinion on what others might be saying who have never attended a community college. 

Are community college students less successful?

Being successful in community college is all about what you want to accomplish and how motivated you are to accomplish it, which means being successful has a different definition for everyone. Success for one student might look like completing an associate degree and entering their desired field, while another student might have the goal to transfer to another college. As long as you accomplish what you’ve set out to do, you are successful!  

Is community college worth it? 

Whether or not something is worth it is really only a question you can answer. That being said, there are a few things we can look at to help you make that decision. First off, community college does usually come at a cheaper rate. So, if you are looking to explore a career field you’re unsure of, it’s probably very worth it! Just keep in mind that financial aid isn’t unlimited forever, so you should be keeping track of how the classes you’re exploring could add up to some type of certificate or degree.    

However, if you are more certain of what you want to do or are confident that the job you want will require a four year degree, then it might be most advantageous for you to attend a four year college. The worth of a college will ultimately be determined by your academic goals.  

What can you study? 

Community colleges offer lots of different areas that you can study. Whether you want to explore science, engineering, philosophy, psychology, or anything in between, they probably have at least one class covering that topic.  

Community colleges with vocational programs may also offer certificates and degrees that give you all the necessary tools to immediately join the workforce. These might be jobs like nursing, welding, dental assisting, or other trade jobs. The best way to find out about what you can study is to visit a school’s website or contact someone directly.  

Can you transfer into a four-year college? 

What if you want more than an associate or technical degree? The great thing is, you can still attend a four year college and continue your education after community college. There is no rule that says if you first attend a community college you can’t ever attend a four year university. So, if you want more, it’s out there!  
Transferring from a community college to a four year college is fairly common and very doable! It’s even possible to transfer from a community college to an Ivy League school! Your first step should be to apply to the school you’d like to transfer to, and once you are accepted, they will help you through the process of actually transferring. 

Is community college right for you?  

Where and when you attend college has everything to do with what you want to do! So, what do you want to do? It’s a big question, one that is okay to not have a perfect answer to. In fact, not having an answer to that might be a great indicator that community college is a good place to start for you.  

Proud community college graduate student author

Community college was the perfect introduction to college for me. It allowed me to take a wide range of courses, all of which transferred with me when I went to a four year university. My classes were small, and I was able to work closely with professors who helped me with the transition from high school to college coursework. Attending community college was one of the best decisions I ever made!
Cait Williams

Recent four-year college graduate

Ohio University

Community college allows you the freedom to really explore a wide range of topics that might interest you without having to commit to high tuition rates and a specific major. It also allows you to potentially earn the credentials you need to start in a field to see if you like that career. We’ve got some questions below you can use to get started assessing if community college is right for you! 

  • Is there something that you are truly passionate about studying? 
  • What level of education do you need to work in the desired field or position you want? 
  • Are you interested in going to college, but still wanting to explore what it is you’d like to study? 
  • How do you learn best? Do you benefit from one-on-one tutoring and support, or do you prefer completing your work independently?
     

These questions are of course not exhaustive, but hopefully they give you a bit to think about and can get the ball rolling. Community college might not be for you, but make sure to give it a fair chance before deciding that for sure!

Frequently asked questions about community college

Do I need to take the SAT or ACT for community college?

The answer here really depends on the school you’re attending. A lot of community colleges won’t require you to take the SAT, but will have you take some placement tests when you enroll there. It’s important to keep in mind though that if you are interested in transferring to a four year college, they may require that score.

What are the pros and cons of going to a community college?

The pros and cons of community college vary by person. Try making a list of things that are important for you, as well as what things you can be more flexible with. What is positive for one person might not matter as much to another person.

Are community college students less successful?

Being successful in community college is all about what you want to accomplish and how motivated you are to accomplish it, which means being successful has a different definition for everyone. Success for one student might look like completing an associate degree and entering their desired field, while another student might have the goal to transfer to another college. As long as you accomplish what you’ve set out to do, you are successful!

When should I apply to community college?

Because community colleges cater to such a wide variety of learners, there’s typically a lot of flexibility in the application window. Just pay attention to what application period you are applying within and when classes would start. 

If you’re a high school senior, you may want to apply to a community college in the beginning of the school year so you know what options you’ll have.  Or, you may want to wait until later in the year when you might have a better idea of what your goals are after high school. Try not to wait until the last minute!

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