Why choosing community college over a four-year university was right for me

For many, senior year has finished, graduation is happening and students have decided which universities they want to attend.

The college decision is by far one of the most stressful decisions an 18-year-old can experience, yet it’s the first real step to independence. I was there this time last year. I was struggling to decide between a few universities and what was best for me. The thought of going to a community college never occurred to me and it actually seemed like many of my peers frowned upon it. But with financial struggles and personal barriers I needed to overcome, community college became the best decision I could have ever made.

I received my first college acceptance and I knew right away that I wanted to go to a four-year university after high school. I wanted to live the college experience. I wanted to live in a dorm, join a sorority, and, in the process, learn at a university level. I started thinking of all the perks, but I was becoming blind to all the cons.

Initially, I wasn’t accepted into any of my first choice schools. My backup schools were great, but I when I visited, I never really clicked with them. They were far away too, and I wasn’t certain how well I would adjust. I also understood that if I did attend a two-year college, I’d have a second chance at getting accepted to one of my first-choice schools. This was the first indicator that community college wasn’t such a bad option after all.

Then came my second, and maybe biggest, clue that community college was the right path for me. Just as I was about to commit to a school, a few friends were discussing how much debt college would leave them in if they didn’t get the proper financial aid. I started to think about how much debt I would have and where I would be financially after graduating college. Attending a school I was uncertain about and getting buried in debt didn’t seem worth it. At community college, I’m receiving a great education at the fraction of the cost of a four-year institute. My classes are inexpensive and give me the opportunity to save my money for when I am ready to transfer.

Living at home has become a blessing in disguise. At first, I was bummed that I wouldn’t get to live in a dorm, but I soon heard all about how my friends hated using communal showers and living in a tiny dorm room with two other roommates. This isn’t the worst thing in the world, but I definitely appreciate my own bedroom and bathroom a lot more now. I was also able to get a job while attending community as a full-time student. Being at home made it so much easier to balance school and work.

Rationally, I knew going to a two-year was the right decision. But there was a part of me that felt left out, a part of me that wanted to be at a university. The decision to not attend a four-year made me more mature and realistic in my decision making process. Not only that, but I’ve become more aware of the financial struggles that come with affording school.

Going to community college seems to have such a negative reputation, but it’s one of the best things I’ve done for myself. And I know I’m not alone either. In the 2012-2013 school year, 45% of all undergraduates attended community college. The choice between a four-year and a two-year can be difficult, but ultimately, both schools will give you that higher education. It’s best to follow your intuition and do what’s best for you, keeping in mind all the factors that go along with it.

(Image via here.)

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