Disregarded route for college

In light of college decisions, students may feel restricted by two options: the university of their dreams or a less-preferred, four-year institution. However, incoming college freshmen often overlook a third option: community college.

Although not being able to go through the true university experience and having fewer opportunities to social network pose understandable concerns, these aspects should not be deal-breakers. Afterall, unless the student’s plan is to stay at a community college for all four years, these problems are just tiny potholes in their long road ahead. More efforts to immerse into the community may be necessary, but in two years’ time, the student would be just as integrated as everyone else on campus. 

Though the experiences and connections made from dorming on campus together and navigating a new life as a freshman may never be replicated, a newly transferred student still has a chance at making impactful connections. From joining clubs and fraternities to reaching out to professors, there are many opportunities to make new connections and advance your social network.

The most compelling reason to choose community college is because it is a cost-friendly alternative. For students who are unable or simply unwilling to pay the astronomical prices of university tuition, starting at a community college with lower tuition fees before transferring to a four-year university is an option that should not be discounted. 

Compared to an in-state, four-year university with an average tuition of $19,000 a year, the College Board found that community colleges average at around $3,000 per year. Research by the APLU showed that most university graduates are left with around $25,000  of debt. Due to high interest rates and other costs of living, the average graduate takes 10 years to pay off all debts. This in turn leads to financial struggles as the graduates first begin their careers. 

Moreover, community college is a great place to take general education classes such as  English, mathematics and social sciences, since community colleges boast more flexibility in students’ schedules. After completing the basic courses, students can then proceed to look toward four-year university options to expand their expertise on certain, specific majors. Community college can also serve as a buffer period for students who are unsure of what major to pursue, allowing them to try out different classes before setting their mind on just one. 

Students used to look at community colleges with disregard. “A junior college? No way. My mom would kill me.”

Yet now, students are beginning to approach this subject with an open mind through guidance counselors and other experienced alumni.

For students in the Diamond Bar area, Mt. SAC is a notable choice.  High school students are able to take on advanced courses while college students complete their general education classes. The importance of acknowledging community college as an option is crucial in opening up future pathways without financial burden.