Use What You Got

by Nikki
(Marshalltown, Ia, US)

Community college option - When I graduated from high school, the last thing I wanted to do was attend a two year community college. Everybody knows all the cool people go to four year colleges after high school—and let me tell you, I was the cool kid! However, after seeing how much older sister was struggling with her grades I reconsidered my options and decided to stay at home for one more year and go to the local community college.

I highly suggest to anyone who is thinking about going to college to get as much college credit in high school. I was very fortunate because my high school offered numerous college level courses; and, as a result, I only had to stay at home one more year rather than two (I completed an entire year of college liberal arts classes for free from my high school).

After that year, I transferred to a four year university and completed my bachelors in only two additional years. This means I had graduated from college one year before my peers and with a much better GPA than most of them. Because I had attended my community college, the classes were easier to get through in a much more relaxed environment than what I experienced at my four year university.

Finally, now that I am paying back my student loans, I am very proud of what I did to save my money. I graduated with a bachelor’s degree (the same as my older sister) with half as much debt as her (a difference of $20,000). I also graduated with a better GPA than her, which is beneficial especially for people who want to continue their education further.

Looking back on it now, I feel like a community college is an option every student should consider. I graduated from my community college with people I never would have met if I went straight to my four year and with memories that will last a life time. I believe that it is not where you go that matters, but who you meet along the way.

Read more College Financial Aid Tips from other students and parents who have been through process.

Comment from your friendly team at College Financial Aid Advice

Thank you Nikki for sharing your experience with the community college option. I like that you were able to complete college in just 3 yeas with all your college credit from high school. All that means less student loan debt. Very good for you.

Save Money and Gain Experience with Community College

(by Staphany, Texas)

My senior year of high school I was really focused on attending either a private or public 4 year university. All throughout high
school, these were honestly the only options I considered and had been exposed to and encouraged to go to. Although I only applied to one in-state public 4 year and one out-of-state private 4 year institution, I recommend you apply to several just to have options.

As the title of this essay will tell you, I ended up not going to either one. Instead I made the tough decision to stay in my hometown and attend community college to avoid accruing high student debt. I can honestly tell you that was one of the best decisions I’ve made.

I had a great experience at a community college for a fraction of the price. I qualified for Federal Pell Grants and was able to cover my entire cost of tuition and textbooks. Not having the added financial stress enabled me to take my mind off tuition and focus on my courses, extracurricular activities, and an internship.

These experiences allowed me to gain a better understanding of what I wanted to do in my academic and professional career. Ultimately, my internship introduced me to a new job field and led me to find a different 4 year private college that more closely matched me and provided me with the scholarship money to fund my education.

So please consider attending your local community college to both save on tuition and gain experiences to better prepare you for attending a 4 year institution. You can also use those two years to make additional money through work-study, jobs, or scholarships to pay for the remainder of your college career. In a smaller setting, take the opportunity to make relationships with your professors and faculty who can also inform you about potential job, internship, or scholarship possibilities as well.

Read more College Tuition Tips from other students and parents who have been through process.

Comment from your friendly team at College Financial Aid Advice

Thank you Staphany for sharing your story Save Money and Gain Experience with Community College. You pointed out a great benefit of community college option – it allows you more time to select a major, and then you can transfer to a 4 year college that offers or excels at that major. Community college is also great way to save money and of course students should always submit a FAFSA or Free Application for Federal Student Aid to apply for financial aid for college, including scholarships, grants, work-study and federal loans.
Good luck to you.

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