A community college, sometimes called a junior college, is an educational institution that provides postsecondary education (typically two years) at an affordable cost.
Community colleges typically serve two purposes; 1) Provide career training for those looking to get an associate’s degree or certificate and enter the workforce; 2) Allow people to take classes at a more affordable price and then transfer to continue their education at a four-year university or graduate school.
The typical student profile at the average community college is comprised of traditional and nontraditional students such as returning adult learners, part-time students, single parents, veterans, and international students.
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What are Common Community College Majors?
The degrees offered by community colleges vary from school to school, but some of the most common include Associate of Arts (A.A.), Associate of Science (A.S.), Associate in Applied Science (A.A.S.), Associate in Business Administration (A.B.A), Certificate Programs, and Technical Certificates.
Here are a few of the most popular areas of study within these associate’s and certificate programs at community colleges today.
- Respiratory Therapy
- Radiologic Technicians
- MRI Technologists
- Dental Hygienists
- Veterinary Technicians
- Computer Science
- Criminal Justice
- Culinary Arts
- Information Technology Support
- Software Engineering
- Medical Assisting
Find Community Colleges by State
How to Find Community College Courses
Most community colleges have online course catalogs so it’s easy to search for the programs and classes available at each school. They may also offer informational sessions, college fairs, and workshops on-campus where you can ask for more information.
Applying to Community College
Most students who apply for admission do not have any trouble since they only need proof of high school graduation or its equivalent, your SAT or ACT test scores (although not required) if you took them during high school, and an application.
To enroll in community college you simply complete an admissions application and pay your first semester’s tuition and fees.
Here are some things you should know about applying for this type of school:
- Community colleges have open enrollment policies and accept anyone with at least a high school diploma or GED equivalent
- You can apply anytime during the year and they offer both full time and part-time programs
- They also tend to be less expensive than universities because they don’t require any specific prerequisites
- Most community colleges do require applicants to take an admissions test that measures their academic readiness
Financial Aid for Community College
Community college is an excellent option for those who cannot afford the expensive price tag of many private and public universities. In fact, some community colleges offer more financial aid than the typical university because they want to make higher education accessible to everyone.
Community college students can apply for federal grants, scholarships from their home state or from the school itself, work-study programs, and student loans.
Tuition at most community colleges is lower than public universities and some even offer in-state tuition to eligible students, making the cost even less of a barrier.
Scholarships and grants do not need to be paid back and can therefore save you money while pursuing your college degree. These options are great for students who need financial help but don’t want to take out student loans.
Aid for community college students is available from the federal government as well as from some states and individual schools. The best place to start your search for aid is at FAFSA, a free site that allows you to create a customized list of scholarships based on criteria such as location, academic record, and awards received.
FAFSA also allows you to create a profile, which will store your information and allow you to apply for different scholarships as they become available.
Community College vs. University
There are significant differences between community colleges and universities. Those include things like the cost of courses, campus culture, class size, and extracurricular activities. Here’s are a few of the major differences.
- Community college typically costs much less than university
- Community college students can graduate faster and enter the workforce quickly
- Universities offer a broader range of courses and curricula
- On-campus culture and activities are greater in a university setting
- Class size at community colleges is often lower, especially in the first two years of school
- Universities have access to more facilities like labs, libraries, and other physical assets
- Community college students typically have less student debt
Community Colleges vs. Technical Schools
Community colleges offer certificates, diplomas, associate degrees, and on-the-job training programs in addition to four-year degree programs. Many individuals seeking education beyond high school begin at community colleges before moving on to more advanced academic institutions.
Certificates are provided for students who want specific skills in a certain field while diplomas provide more of an overview of general subjects required by some employers. Associate degrees are earned after completing two years of study at a community college while on-the-job training programs are often provided through local employers.
On the other hand, Technical Schools (trade schools) offer more depth education geared towards a specific career path (career training) than many community college programs.
Keep in mind that community colleges also offer some technical and career training programs. Because they are often less expensive than a technical school, it’s worth checking community college offerings before going to a trade or technical school.
Technical schools teach technical skills that can be used to enter an occupation directly upon completion of the program. For example, one might get a certificate for learning how to be an electrician quickly and efficiently. Such certificates take between 6 weeks and 1 year to complete, depending on the specific trade school offering them.
However, they do not give students much room to explore other fields or challenge themselves academically at all during their time in school. Compare this to earning two years’ worth of academic credits at a community college which can then lead to university-level study if desired later on down the road.
Benefits of Community College
The benefits of community college vary depending on the individual and their goals for attending such an institution. However, there are several universal advantages that come with this type of schooling.
For one thing, it is much more affordable than going straight to a university or college from high school. In addition to being cheaper in tuition fees and other expenses like room and board can be less expensive if you are able to stay at home with family and avoid rent costs.
Many students also enjoy a more flexible schedule at a community college than at a university. For instance, it’s common for students to have full-time jobs and still attend classes at a community college. This may be the only way a parent can both help support a family, and get additional education to increase their value in the workforce.
Another major advantage is the ability to get a simple (and less expensive) introduction into the college-level environment and what it takes to succeed at such an institution. There are several courses that can be taken in order to delve deeper into subjects that will apply to majors in which one plans on studying in the future.
For example, some schools offer general education requirements and allow students to select which courses they would like for their own personal interests in areas they want to pursue in college.
Additionally, community colleges present plenty of activities, clubs, sports teams, and networking opportunities for students should they choose to participate or just become aware of them. These extracurriculars allow people who share similar goals with others the chance to join together and create strong relationships that may turn into life-long friendships.
On top of everything else, the great thing about community college is that it’s not all or nothing. If someone does not like what they are taking in their first year, they can always change it up and find something more suitable to their interests. This makes it much easier to ease into college life before making any final decisions on what major to pursue.
In short, there are many benefits to attending a two-year community college instead of applying right away for a four-year degree program.
Common Jobs for Community College Graduates
Community college graduates can go on to get jobs in many fields including careers in information technology, healthcare, and the skilled trades.
- Healthcare – A lot of people who graduate from community college find work at hospitals or other medical facilities because there are many associates and certificate degrees geared towards that industry.
- Information Technology – The need for web developers, software engineers, and cybersecurity experts is expected to grow significantly over the next ten years. Community college graduates with the right credentials will be well-positioned to fill these jobs.
- Skilled Trades – There is a chronic shortage of workers in the skilled trades. With that shortage, an opportunity has been created to make a fantastic living in trades like HVAC, Welding, and Auto-repair.
How much do Community College Courses Cost?
Individuals can expect to pay between $3,000 and $10,000 per year at most community colleges. That includes tuition and other school-related fees such as lab or art supplies if needed. Room and board are different because it depends on where you live while attending classes.
If you receive financial aid you can count on your total cost being less than what the average student pays annually. The best way to figure out how much money you may need is by visiting your school’s website and getting a tuition estimate.
Transferring to a 4-year University
Transferring to a 4-year University is the first step toward your bachelor’s degree. Many community college students will eventually transfer to a university to complete a bachelor’s degree or beyond.
Most community colleges do have relationships with universities to allow credits to transfer, but some are better than others. For that reason, you should plan which university you would like to transfer to as early as possible. This will allow you to figure out which classes will transfer smoothly from your community college and avoid taking classes that will be a loss.
Do Community Colleges Have Dorms?
There are more than 1,000 community colleges across the country and some provide on-campus dorms for students who are interested or are from out-of-state.
The ones that do usually require students to live there during certain portions of the semester or year. Some community colleges don’t have dormitories at all, so if you can’t find any information then you should call the admissions office and ask.
Do Community Colleges Have Extracurricular Activities?
Most community colleges offer things like clubs and student organizations for people with similar interests. Most also offer the ability to compete on different sports teams, and may even compete against other community colleges.
If you’re interested in joining one or more of these groups, make sure to check out your school’s website or talk to an admissions counselor about what might be available at your school!
The Bottom Line
If you’re looking for an affordable way to get your degree, it may be time to look into community colleges. They offer a variety of programs that are designed to help students transfer seamlessly into four-year institutions and graduate with the skills they need in today’s marketplace.
And because these schools focus on providing lower-cost education, this is often one of the first places people turn when money is tight, or other options aren’t available.
Community college can provide both higher education opportunities as well as job training courses tailored to specific industries like healthcare, law enforcement, culinary arts, and more!
Because of the broad range of training programs coupled with lower cost, community colleges remain one of the best and lowest risk ways to get a post-secondary education.