What is community college like? Is it like high school?
A concern many high school graduates have about community college is that by attending a local college and still living with their parents, the only difference they will feel between high school and community college is that their classes are now a level above 12th grade, leading to the community college nickname "13th Grade". But there are a couple of pertinent questions here. What you're really wondering about is whether or not you will receive a higher level of education in community college, one that will adequately prepare you to transfer to a 4-year school once you've completed your general education courses. And you probably also want to know if you'll have to deal with the cliques and fabricated social stratification that no doubt permeated your high school experience. In short, you're probably questioning whether or not community college provides for a serious academic environment that is suitable for a studious person such as yourself. So here are just a few points to address these relevant queries.
First, you should be aware that there are always going to be people that live in the past and refuse to grow and adapt to their surroundings, whether you are in community college, a top-tier university, or a corporate office. This means that you will almost certainly have to deal with at least a few rotten eggs who would like to carry their high school glory days into their time at community college, complete with posturing and putting others down in an attempt to be king of the hill. However, the majority of students attending community college are looking to meet new people, open themselves to new knowledge, ideas, and experiences, and take this opportunity to reinvent themselves. And since most social groups split up and go to a variety of colleges and universities, you are unlikely to fall victim to the gaggle of girls or the bro-gade that tormented you in high school. Pretty much everyone is in the same boat at the college level, which is to say strangers in a strange land. This can make for some interesting bedfellows.
As for the level of education, that depends entirely on the community college you select and the courses you take. Like any major undertaking in life, you tend to get out what you put in. So you need to take the time to check out the community colleges in and around your area if you want to find one that offers the level of coursework you need to continue your education and prepare for your undergrad major. If you're in need of advanced calculus, for example, and certain schools don't offer it, then you should definitely keep looking (rather than fall behind). Some community colleges offer an honor's program, which will definitely give you an advantage. You also need to make sure that there is a program in place that will ensure you meet the criteria required for community college transfer to your school (or schools) of choice, since you probably want to move on to a university that offers 4-year degrees at some point. In addition, you might want to seek out a community college that offers prerequisite classes for your major so that you don't end up with additional courses on your schedule when you transfer to university.
Before you make your way to an undergrad program to set yourself up for a successful career or perhaps an online executive MBA, you may want to consider community college as a way to complete your general education courses while staying close to home and saving money on tuition. And while your concerns about the stereotype that community college is nothing more than "13th grade" are valid, the truth is that most campuses (community or otherwise) harbor some aspects of this dynamic. Each level of education will build upon the last. All you can control is your own attitude, and if you enter the community college atmosphere prepared to work hard and get ahead, you can become the top student at community college.