Community College vs. Four-Year University


Selecting a college is a major decision, one that many families take months or even years to make. There are many choices and factors to consider, including programs of study, cost, geography and auxiliary services. One particular decision is between a community college and a four-year university.

Pros and cons of community college. Community colleges tend to be more affordable than four-year universities and may be more appealing to students who wish to begin the higher education experience without a large financial commitment. Community colleges tend to have a variety of classes and auxiliary programs that are state-funded and available to a broad spectrum of the population.

When students attend a community college, they typically can obtain a two-year associate's degree; students who are interested in a bachelor's degree will need to seek out another institution eventually. In addition, students may find it a bit harder to get connected at a community college, given that many campuses are commuter-based.

Pros and cons of a four-year school. Four-year universities are typically more expensive, and some students may need to live on campus or find some sort of nearby lodging. Therefore, students who attend a four-year school may have more opportunities to find a college home, but it may require a more serious commitment.

There are many choices at a four-year university, both in terms of academic majors and student service programs. For students who are comfortable navigating complex systems, this provides for a number of exciting social and vocational options. Other students may find sizable schools to be too large for their own comfort, which is why visits are often helpful to get a sense of the campus.

Do your homework. Some of these factors will differ depending on specific institutions. Students and parents should do their homework and research each possible school individually so they can make an informed judgment. Ultimately, applications must be filled out and students must wait to hear if they have been accepted into their desired college or university.

Students should explore the many different schools that are available so they can find the institution that is the right fit for them, notes Scott Friedhoff, vice president for enrollment and communications at Allegheny College in Meadville, Pa. Selecting a college should not be a time of focusing on a student’s shortcomings, but should instead be a time to celebrate his or her strengths as a learner.

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