Community College First

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Community colleges are a more affordable options for students in their first two years of college (photo courtesy of Pete Sieger on flickr).

I was guilty of it: senioritis. That feeling you get when it is the final semester of high school and all you want to do is start your “new life” in college. Which college? Any one located outside of your hometown. One that offers you the ability to live on your own, without your parents asking “Where are you going?” or “Who are you going with?” Anyone with classes you can take so you can eventually decide what you what to be when you grow up. But not now. Now is a time for fun. Now I will be irresponsible, sleep late and my biggest decision will be where to go out tonight.

Stop.

There are plenty of excellent reasons to attend a four-year university straight out of high school, but only if you 1) know exactly what you want to major in 2) want to pay more for the same classes, and/or 3) have a scholarship. Instead there are three really good reasons to select a community college first and then transfer to a four-year university after two years.

1. Cost

College is expensive. The average state university in Florida now-a-days charges nearly $200 per credit hour for classes, and in some cases this doesn’t even include the fees associated with enrolling in a university. Even more expensive than college is living away from home while going to college. Even the cheapest apartment with roommates will set you back a few hundred dollars each month and that doesn’t even include food.

By attending classes at the local community college for the first two years (Associate’s degree) you will not only save money on tuition (roughly 50%, by my calculations) you will also save on rent. If Mom and Dad do charge rent after your high-school years, it probably will not be the same amount as you would spend on living with roommates.

2. Class Size

My first college class at Florida State University, back in the fall of 2003, was BSC1005 Introduction to Biology. After walking fifteen minutes uphill at 8:30am to get to class on the other side of campus, I walked into a 1500 student lecture-style class held in Ruby Diamond Auditorium. The professor (I think it was a man, but I can’t be for sure because of how far away I was sitting) lectured from the stage with a laser pointer, a projector and screen, and a headset microphone. Attendance was taken by writing our last name and last four of our SSN on a piece of notebook paper that was passed up and down each row. Personal? No. Worth attending each morning? Of course not. Did I learn anything? Yes; how to study for only the test.

Community colleges offer much smaller classes to students, primarily because of the total enrollment. Professors can easily learn each student’s name and offer a more one-on-one learning environment if students excel in that format. By attending a community college first, students can learn the ins-and-outs of college classes and slowly develop their adult learning skills. Remember, in college professors are not going to provide you with multiple homework assignments or practice problems; the majority of learning is actually done outside of the classroom on your own time.

3. More time to decide on a major

Not sure what you want your major to be? I wasn’t either. But, four-year universities sometimes only give freshman one semester before they have to declare a major. How much will you know in 5 months about what you would like to study for four years? I sure didn’t know. By attending a community college first, you can explore class and fields of study while pursuing your Associate of Arts degree, an option four-year universities usually do not offer. You’re AA degree will allow you to transfer to a four-year university while giving you time to explore all your options for a major.

Ashley Benson is a distance education professional with five years of experience in the for-profit sector. She has worked coast-to-coast within the United States as an academic advisor, an adjunct teaching assistant and, most recently, a campus Registrar. Through formal education and industry experience, Ashley practices staying informed on the current events and changes within higher education and the students involved.

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