Community colleges are meant to provide affordability and access, but they are not always popular options. Too often, they are seen as the ultimate backup for students who can’t get into “good” schools. This is not always true, as there are some bright and motivated students who choose to go to community college. Yes, there are some slackers who will eventually drop out, but this same lack of engagement is found at many four-year colleges (check out the startling 60% graduation rates for four-year colleges here). Community college is the right answer for the right student at the right time. So, who is a good fit for community college?
Community college is ideal for the student who knows that continuing their education is the key to a better future, but doesn’t know where to start. This student might be unsure of what they are most interested in or what their strengths are. Community colleges are reasonably priced, giving students the opportunity to try courses they might otherwise not have had a chance to explore. Students can take a low-pressure risk and perhaps find their passion while also giving them more time to mature.
A good example of this is a very capable young man named James (now 26), who was unsure of what to do after high school. Since his parents bought into the idea that a four-year college is the answer, 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 was not so interested in when forced to read. In his very last semester (he graduated in three and a half years because he didn’t like living away from home), James took a JAVA class, and you guessed it, NIRVANA!
James came home in December and enrolled in a few computer classes at the local community college. 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. This was followed by the part-time job as a junior web developer at a software company (learning hands-on from the ground up). Before graduating, James landed a job as an entry level web developer at a progressive local startup. One important thing to note is the motivation that came with this: 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 great salary, but most importantly, in his words, “there is nothing like waking up and going to a job you enjoy.” Yea, we hear you, James!
Students and parents, don’t dismiss community college as a starting point. 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. Since James was a hardworking student with great grades, we believed 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 some students, and for others, a two-year college or “working” gap year (an essay for another day!) is the right choice. If you are reading this post to the end, perhaps you are thinking about community college as an option. Good luck, and if you have any questions, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.