You got the financial aid letter in the mail. You’ve run the numbers. Things aren’t adding up, and you are looking for options. Your conclusion? Community college.

Although community college may be a good option in some cases, it’s important to look at this decision from all angles. Here are a few things to consider before you write off your dream school to go to community college for two years:

  1. Financial Aid. At most institutions, transfer students are eligible for less financial aid than freshmen. You may be paying less for a few years at community college, but also may forfeit the larger financial aid package that a university will offer you as a freshman.
  2. Time to Graduation. Many states now track community college completion rates in terms of 3 years instead of 2. Just because on paper you can graduate in 2 years, does not mean this will be reality. Being able to get the classes you need plays a big role in how quickly you can graduate. It’s important to ask questions of your school such as “How impacted are your classes?”, “Do students end up on waitlists often?”, and “On average, how long does it take students to get their associates degree?”
  3. Specific Courses for your Major. Even if you come in with all your general education courses complete, depending on your major, there may be specific courses that you need during your freshman and sophomore years to graduate on time from your transfer institution. In some cases, you can’t get these courses at the community college level. It’s important to work with your transfer institution to make sure you get the courses you need to graduate on time. I also recommend conversing with a transfer admissions counselor in advance to make sure the courses you need are offered at the community college level. For certain majors, you may be at least 3 years from graduation no matter what. Examples of these could include engineering, pre-medical, etc.
  4. Opportunity Costs: If you get yourself in a situation where it takes you 5 or 6 years to graduate, that’s one or two additional years you are paying tuition and one or two additional years of putting your career on hold. It may cost more to attend the private Christian school year to year. However, if you look at the big picture between receiving a smaller financial aid package and lengthening your time to graduation, in the long run, it may be less expensive as a total investment to start as a freshman instead of attending community college first.

So, before you make your final decision, be sure to ask lots of questions of both the private, Christian school you want to attend and the community college you may start at instead. If you do end up attending community college first, be sure to stay in close contact with the transfer admissions counselor at the school you want to transfer to so you can have the smoothest transition possible. But most of all, be sure to breathe, take in all the information, and make an educated choice. You’ve got this.

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