For students enrolled at community colleges or trade schools, the highest degree they can achieve is an associate’s; if students exhaust the course offerings early or want to further their knowledge in a particular field, they can transfer to a four-year school to do so. Consider this, though: Is spending more time in school better than gaining on-the-job experience right away with your current degree? Work experience can be far more valuable depending on the field but if the only way to obtain the job you want is with a bachelor’s degree or higher, transferring is a necessity.
Community colleges have gotten a bad rap over the years but in truth they are excellent places for students to get their feet wet in a particular field, a better fit for many students than four-year colleges and instrumental to our country’s economic recovery. When their tenure at these institutions ends, many community college students continue their education by transferring to public and private schools and know they will do this before they even enter their first class. If this is your plan, be sure that the classes you enroll in not only meet the requirements for your associate’s degree but can also be put toward a bachelor’s degree at the four-year colleges you’re considering.
The course catalog will answer most questions about class eligibility but meeting with a school counselor or adviser will eliminate all doubt; one meeting can even expedite the transfer process, as an adviser can steer you toward the classes that offer the most credits and benefits to your current and future endeavors. It’s also a good idea to review articulation agreements, which are negotiated documents that make clear what's needed to transfer from one higher education institution to another.
Your work is far from over once your request for transfer has been accepted (congratulations, by the way!) – one could argue it’s just getting started! From here, you’ll be tasked with sending in your deposit, taking out any necessary loans and applying for scholarships and grants to supplement the cost, attending orientation and registering for classes. Having spent two years in school already, you should be more than prepared to handle the workload associated with college classes but if you find yourself struggling to adjust, don’t hesitate talking to your professors, teaching assistants, advisers or classmates; they’ve all had to transition into a new setting in one way or another and even if their situation doesn’t exactly match yours, their advice will probably still resonate.
Now about that 800-pound gorilla in the room: Many students wonder if the stigma associated with attending a community college will work against them in the application process. Will admissions committees turn up their noses at these students and favor of applicants from four-year schools? If you’ve performed well in your community college classes and have the credits necessary to transfer, there’s no reason to hesitate moving forward with your transfer plans so start filling out those applications PRONTO!
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