How do I Choose the Best Community College?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Most students will attend a community college in their area, instead of looking at other programs elsewhere. The advantages of attending a local college are numerous, and they include that the student doesn’t have to relocate, and may be able to live at home. There can be good reasons to look at other community colleges, and choosing one could be based on things like special programs a college offers, college reputation, scholarship programs, or desire to relocate to a specific area and attend school.

Many students choose to attend a community college in their area.
Many students choose to attend a community college in their area.

Most community colleges offer, at minimum, general education instruction that is equivalent to college freshman and sophomore work. Some programs have significantly more to attract students. They may feature certificate programs that are well respected in the community and that might lead to gainful employment. Alternately, some schools have well-regarded departments, and this might draw students with a particular focus. A drama student might be attracted to a specific community college that has a very strong theater arts department.

Assessing the community college's reputation is one way of choosing the best school.
Assessing the community college's reputation is one way of choosing the best school.

Assessing a community college's reputation is another way of determining if it is the best school. Students can look at demographics that speak to retention rate, the number of graduating students that are accepted to four-year colleges, the average education level of professors, and the number of professors that serve the student body. Statistically evaluating schools based on the services they offer may help students determine which schools are the best choices.

Some community and commuter colleges offer a limited number of academic programs and majors.
Some community and commuter colleges offer a limited number of academic programs and majors.

Another point of consideration when weighing the benefits of a community college is how much the community has invested in the college. It’s advantageous to attend schools that offer good scholarships. Some colleges are better endowed than others and may be better choices for students who would like financial help in paying for their education.

Community college classes typically have fewer students, allowing for more one-on-one time with professors.
Community college classes typically have fewer students, allowing for more one-on-one time with professors.

Students may also decide on a school because they want to live in a specific area. It is a good idea to find out what kinds of accommodations are available at a community college. Since many community members do attend the schools, some colleges may not have on-campus housing or it is highly competitive to obtain. Students should determine if they will be able to find housing on campus or if they will need to live somewhere else. In places like the US, students usually receive less financial aid when they attend a junior college than they do when they attend a four-year college, so determining financial feasibility of attending a school in a specific location is important.

Students attending a community college may need to find off campus venues to socialize.
Students attending a community college may need to find off campus venues to socialize.

Other things to weigh include college admissions standards, which for most colleges are relatively minimal, the appeal of a campus, and the satisfaction of attending students. A little Internet searching can lead most people to boards of students that offer reviews of their college. Visiting college campuses is an excellent plan, and students can usually ask for interviews with other students, so they can get a sense of how the community college is perceived by its attendees.

Community colleges may have programs that fit in better with a student's schedule without them feeling overwhelmed.
Community colleges may have programs that fit in better with a student's schedule without them feeling overwhelmed.
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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