Strategic Uses Of Two Year Schools

A lot of focus of college in the US is on the four-year system, and these schools are the most well know. Schools like Harvard, big state schools like Alabama, and the dozens of other four-year colleges normally take precedent in most people’s minds. However, there is an entire system that works in parallel with these schools, yet most people are not as familiar with them. They are part of the American community college system, and can definitely have their uses when trying to earn a four-year degree. In fact, some students deliberately use a “2+2” approach to completing a bachelor’s degree, meaning they take two years of general education classes at a community college first. Later they transfer their credits to a four-year college to complete the bachelor’s degree, and this approach is used by thousands of students each year.

But even students at four-year colleges might can find some “strategic” uses of the community college system. Community colleges are fully accredited two-year public colleges, and they are credentialed by the same bodies that accredit four-year schools (I am talking about non-profit two-years colleges, not career schools). Credits earned at a community college are fully valid, and most will transfer to virtually any four-year school in the US. Each year my students use them as an important adjunct on their way to earning a four-year degree, and I’ve seen first hand the strategic value of using the two-year system to meet requirements along the way to earning a bachelor’s degree. In other works, even four-year students can use the community college system for specific reasons, so they should not be overlooked.

Some of the strategic uses for two-year schools include:

Brushing Up On Skills

An obvious use of a community college is to brush up on four-year skills that you know you will need, but might have not used in a while. I remember, before taking a series of research stats classes for undergraduate and graduate school, that I took a math refresher course just to get back in to practice for solving math problems, and this proved to be a great move. The classes at most community colleges are usually cheaper than four-year colleges, and the courses can be somewhat easier, although this depends heavily on the Professor. Students who have been away from the classroom for a while may need to re-learn how to study, take notes, track assignments, and bolster other skills that a two-year schools can help them to improve. Writing reaction papers, position papers, essays, and taking tests are all core skills that students need if they want to succeed at a four-year school, and all can be found at community colleges.

Taking Specific Classes To For Transfer

I’ve worked with students who used a community college effectively to complete specific courses that they didn’t get around to taking at their four-year school. Usually these courses are the ones that are highly transferable and often represent lower-level classes for a major or general education requirements. For example, one girl I worked with needed to take General Psychology as a requirement to apply to a graduate program. Since she was a Biology major, it wasn’t required for that degree, so she simply never got around to taking it. By taking it through her local community college during summer she was able to show that she completed that requirement, and the fact that it was not at a four-year school didn’t matter at all. Some colleges want you to essentially “check the box” for prerequisites completion, and since two-year schools are fully accredited the classes are normally seen as valid.

Finishing General Education Requirements

Perhaps the most valued use of community colleges is that students can earn credits to complete the general education component of a four-year degree. In fact, many students will use the approach of taking the first two years of their college education at a two-year school, then transfer to a four-year school to graduate. For a bachelor’s degree, students can take upwards of 60 semester hour credits (or even more) at a community college, then transfer them to a four-year school, which works well for most degree programs. Classes in the Arts, Humanities, Behavioral Sciences, Natural Sciences, and others are all offered at two-year schools, and are required to graduate for most four-year degrees. However, students must be careful to choose “equivalent” courses so that they transfer to a four-year college, which a conversation with an Advisor can help to determine. Certain programs make it more difficult to effectively use this approach, such as engineering, but for most college majors students can take the bulk of their general education classes at a community college.

Earning Good Grades To Transfer To Another College

For students who want to transfer to a different four-year college, having good grades is critical for showing that they can be successful. But it’s recent good grades that show that a student can complete new challenges in the present, so stellar high school grades may not be helpful especially if there were bad grades in college. Community colleges can be a good place for students who need the chance to earn these recent good grades since they won’t hold bad grades against the student for admission. Community colleges, in general, have something called “open admission” (also called “open enrollment”) which means that basically everyone is accepted. So even if you’ve had some bad grades at a school before, you won’t be denied entry. While certain programs at two-year schools may have competitive admissions, such as nursing, the vast majority of their offerings usually have open enrollment. This can represent an important opportunity for students who needs a chance to earn some good grades to show they are a viable transfer candidate.

Completing Harder Requirements

Many of my four-year students chose to use the community college system to take tough courses that they needed to graduate, but are worried that they may barely pass. Earning a “C-” can really hurt your 3.8 GPA that you’ve worked hard to attain, and can even cause problems with things like scholarship status. But because GPA is relative to a college system, classes you take elsewhere do not count toward your home school GPA calculation. In other words, credits transfer but grades do not, so the credits for that C- may transfer just fine back to your home school and not drag down your GPA. I’ve had students take hard classes like Organic Chemistry I and II, Physics I and II, or even foreign language requirements at a two-year school so they could insulate their home school GPA from any bad grades.  An important footnote is to check with your home school about exactly what grade you must get to transfer the credits to them for that specific class. Some colleges will say that you may need to get a C to receive credit, but for others they may say you only need to pass with a D.  There are no universal rules, colleges get to decide themselves, so it’s always important to check. Also, make sure that the community college is not affiliated grade-wise with your home school, otherwise a low grade will indeed impact your home school GPA. Just like different branches of a state school are affiliated and use the same student GPA across campuses, in some rare cases a community college may be affiliated with a certain four-year school, so research how things would work in order to avoid problems.

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