Community College vs University Reveals An Unexpected Winner

by Michael Kowlowitz

Community College VS. University

For many graduating seniors, the end of the school years marks an important crossroad: community college versus university.

Do you continue with your education, perhaps go to a 4-year University and leave your town and friends behind? Or do you stay put and attend a local 2 year community college until you figure out a more thorough plan? Community college vs university is a very tough question to answer for some students. As a teacher who offers SAT Tutoring in Manhattan, I do a lot of pre-college advising and deal with many graduating seniors. Prior to making any decision, I like to have a discussion with my students on the pros and cons of community college vs. university away from home.

Let’s see how community college compares to university...

Living Away From Home Vs. Living At Home

For most college freshmen, attending University is the first opportunity to spend significant time away from home. This is an amazing learning experience and a real, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. How many times in your life will you have the opportunity to pick up and leave for 4 years, while meeting like-minded people who did the same? I’ll give you a hint…not often!

Although attending a sleep-away University may be a great experience, it’s not all sunshine and roses. If you appreciate cleanliness, good food and privacy, you most likely will enjoy living at home more. Almost all University students who live on campus have roommates and shared bathrooms. And don’t even get me started on the cafeteria food. Have you ever tried University food? One word…disguising! If you have any dietary concerns, you might have a problem finding suitable food.

University Social Life Vs. Community College Social Life

University can be fun depending on your interests and how much disposable income you have. If money isn’t a concern, you’ll have a great time barhopping and going to all the local clubs/frat parties. If you aren’t into the whole party- "go crazy" scene, you may not be missing so much by going to community college.

In addition, attending community college for your associates degree gives you the chance to visit friends that went away to other universities and experience college life at different universities before deciding what is best for you. Not to mention, you can meet people at community college by getting involved in clubs that interest you on campus.

University Education Vs. Community College Education

If you plan on studying a trade or want to go into a profession where a bachelor degree isn’t required, I would definitely go with a community college. Otherwise, you can always learn how to transfer your credits from community college to university. At community college, you'll end up taking the same basic courses in the first two years anyways.

Community colleges and universities also have education centers and other excellent resources to help you succeed academically. The major difference is the competitiveness inside the classroom. At community college, it is up to you to stay focused and get the most out of your education while universities have a much more "cut-throat" environment.

University Tuition Vs. Community College Tuition

Community college vs university cost is significantly cheaper and more cost-effective than going straight to 4-year universities. Most Universities are upwards of 5-6x more expensive a semester than community college programs! If you attend a University for all 4 years, the costs can be astronomical!

Luckily, there’s a way to sidestep this. Most Universities allow high-performing community college students to transfer into their schools to continue their bachelors degree. Many Universities even allow transfers to retain their school credits they accrued in community college! Meaning, students can attend community college for two years, and then transfer to a 4-year program as a junior! This can save you tons of money! For students who are unsure of what they want to study or have limited funds, this is the best approach. Even students who can afford a 4-year program should consider this route. This also gives students who performed poorly in High School or on the SAT’s another opportunity to get into the school of their dreams!

Who's The Winner?

As you can see, there are many factors to consider when choosing between community college vs University. If money isn’t an issue and your dream job requires a specific Bachelors degree, I would attend a 4-year University straight from high school. In all other instances, I’d recommend attending a two-year community program and then transferring to a 4-year-university that's better than the one you could have gone to straight out of high school - like going from community college to Ivy League.

Read our guide on transferring from community college to university to learn more.

This post was written by Michael Kowlowitz

Michael is an educational enthusiast who is passionate about reading, sports and music.

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