How it Works
Students spend two (sometimes three) years at a community college completing their general education requirements and preparatory classes for their major. When they transfer to a 4 year university, they transfer as juniors and thus only have two years left before earning their undergraduate degree.
- Community college tuition is significantly less expensive than what you find at even your most budget-friendly state university. If you only have to spend two years at a 4 year university, that’s a significant savings that can be made even more significant if students live at home while they’re attending community college.
- A fresh academic start: When you apply to transfer from a community college to a 4 year university, your high school grades are not considered at all.
- University of California TAG Programs: TAG stands for “transfer agreement guarantee.” It’s an agreement between you and your favorite UC campus that ensures you receive an acceptance, provided you meet certain conditions. Of course, there’s restrictions and complexities: for example, this isn’t available at every UC campus and certain majors have tougher requirements than others. But even still, the very idea of a guaranteed acceptance is amazing and something not available to high school applicants.
- If you choose to live at home and save money during your community college years, you may miss out on the traditional “first year” experience of living in the dorms, eating in the dining halls, etc.
- If I’m an ambitious computer science student and, right off the bat, I want to work in some kind of artificial intelligence lab as a freshman, this will likely be harder to come by at a community college compared to a 4 year university. Of course, even if I were to attend a 4 year university right out of high school, there’s no guarantee that such an opportunity would even be open to me. But nevertheless, the general point stands that research opportunities may be harder to come by at community colleges.
If you’re a high school senior getting ready to apply to college, it’s worth considering whether the community college path might be right for you. A common question I get is, “What should I do if I want to consider community college as a back-up in the event that I’m not accepted into my preferred 4 year university?” Here, it’s important to keep in mind that, by the time you’ve heard back from all of your 4 year universities, there’s still plenty of time to sign up for community college. Thus, community college will always be an option for you and you can wait until you’ve heard back from all of your other universities before you decide. But I also encourage you to consider community college not just as a back-up but as its own unique path that may, potentially, be the best option for you.