Is It Better to Go to Community College First, Then Transfer?

Is It Better to Go to Community College First, Then Transfer?

We’re going to be completely honest with you about the advantages and disadvantages of attending community college before pursuing a four-year degree in this article.

More than half of all American students begin their education at a community college before continuing on to earn their bachelor’s or even master’s degree. This is because attending community college results in significant tuition savings.

This makes for an excellent way to begin a higher education career, especially given that community colleges now assist with credit transfers to 4-year institutions.

When deciding whether enrolling in community college is the best course of action for you, there are a few key factors to take into account, including your financial situation and your professional aspirations. Continue reading to find out if you ought to think about enrolling in a community college before transferring to a four-year university.

Is It Better to Go to Community College First?

A common question about community college is, “Is attending community college prior to transferring to a four-year institution preferable?” The idea that attending community college first is bad is based on misconceptions about community colleges.

Community colleges are still considered to be colleges, as we already mentioned. They’re also made to put you in a position where you can succeed at a four-year university or help you gain additional training for the workforce, whichever of those is what you want to do.

You’ll still receive a quality education, learn from experienced professors, and gain the academic experience you require to be successful.

Is It Better to Go to Community College First, Then Transfer?

In other words, it isn’t bad to go to community college first. Community colleges simply offer a different type of higher education that has different goals than other higher education options. Many students make the excellent decision to attend community college first before transferring to a four-year university.

Now that you know a little bit more about what a community college is, let’s look at some top reasons to start your higher education journey at a community college.

Reasons to Start at Community College

If you’re asking yourself, “Should I first attend community college?” but you aren’t sure how to decide, we’re here to help. There are many good reasons to attend community college first, but we’ll focus on two of the most prevalent ones in this article.

Two of the best reasons for going to community college for 2 years and then transferring are affordability and academic flexibility.


It’s pretty simple: community college just costs less than four-year colleges. In fact, community college tuition is usually thousands of dollars lower than tuition at four-year institutions. Furthermore, a significant portion of community college students also receive federal financial aid, and private aid is an option.

Since many core course requirements can be completed at community college before enrolling in a four-year university, students who do so will probably pay significantly less for those classes than students who attend universities (where core courses cost significantly more per class).

So by starting coursework at a community college, students can lower the overall cost of their bachelor’s degree!

Is It Better to Go to Community College First, Then Transfer?

Many community college students also save on the “hidden” costs of college, like activity fees, parking, and room and board. The extracurricular options at community colleges are typically more limited than those at four-year institutions, which results in lower tuition costs for students.

Community colleges also tend to be friendlier to students who must drive to campus because they are commuter schools. In other words, parking is typically less expensive or even free.

Community college students are not required, though some institutions do offer the option, to live on campus, so many opt to live at home with their families or in more affordable off-campus housing. Room and board add significantly to the cost of attending four-year colleges, so this is another major way that community colleges can be more affordable.


Additionally, community colleges often provide the academic flexibility that students need. The fact that many community college courses are offered at night gives students who work or have families the best of both worlds.

Community colleges are expanding their selection of online courses as well, giving students yet another way to fit schoolwork into their busy schedules.

The range of academic needs and skill levels that students have can be met by community colleges as well. Students who need remedial instruction will typically find committed instructors and high-quality courses that can really help them advance their skills.

At the same time, students who opt to start their education at a community college out of convenience will find that the courses there are rigorous, interesting, and useful in preparing them for further study at a four-year university.

Small classes at community colleges may also appeal to students who prefer a more personal learning environment. Community college professors frequently devote all of their time to teaching. This frequently gives them the time and freedom to provide academic support outside of class to assist students in reaching their objectives.

Is It Better to Go to Community College First, Then Transfer?

Community colleges also typically have smaller class sizes. The chance to interact meaningfully with classmates, take part in active learning in the classroom, and collaborate closely with professors are all possibilities for students.

A community college can therefore offer you the perfect learning environment if you benefit from hands-on instruction and individualized instruction.

What to Know If You Plan to Start at a Community College?

There are some potential restrictions and disadvantages that you should take into account in addition to the costs, which can be a significant advantage of attending community college. What you hope to gain from your post-secondary education after the first two years is one of the main factors to take into account.

After community college, there are two ways to continue your education in a four-year program. This depends on whether your community college has an articulation agreement in place.

An articulation agreement is a written pact between a community college and a four-year university that guarantees students who enroll in particular courses and maintain a particular GPA automatic transfer admission.

Transferring With An Articulation Agreement

Some states have broad agreements that cover several community colleges and four-year campuses, enabling students to begin at one of the community colleges and transfer to any of the colleges. For instance, in Massachusetts’ MassTransfer program, students can begin at any of the 15 community college campuses and transfer to one of the 13 public four-year state colleges.

In general, this is a good choice if a formal articulation agreement exists between your local community college and a four-year institution. The tuition savings over several years will be worth it, and the four-year school’s matriculation requirements are usually reasonable.

The prerequisites may be more onerous if you want to attend the state’s premier public university (such as UC Berkeley or UMass Amherst). To ensure that your grades remain on track if that is your goal, learn about the matriculation requirements as soon as possible.

Is It Better to Go to Community College First, Then Transfer?

Your education will be less flexible if you transfer with an articulation agreement, which is one of the biggest disadvantages. This might occur if the articulation agreement specifies certain course requirements that tie you to a particular program of study at the four-year partner institution.

The tuition savings due to changing your mind or initially not knowing what you want to major in can become insignificant if you have to attend the four-year institution for an additional year to make up for it or if you are unable to pursue your intended field of study.

If you transfer with an articulation agreement, you also give up some flexibility if your transfer preferences change. This is where tools like MassTransfer can present more choices. However, you might have to transfer without an articulation agreement if those programs are unavailable where you currently reside.

Transferring Without An Articulation Agreement

As long as you are aware of (and follow) the matriculation requirements, transferring from a community college to a four-year institution with an articulation agreement is generally risk-free. But without an articulation agreement, transferring to a four-year institution is much riskier.

This is due to a few factors, the first of which is the extremely challenging transfer process, particularly if you have your sights set on a top-40 college. There are a limited number of transfer spots available each year, and your application will be evaluated alongside those of students transferring from community colleges and those transferring from one four-year institution to another.

Generally speaking, transfer acceptance rates are lower than standard acceptance rates. (Regardless of where they are coming from, everyone should know this.)

Transferring can be challenging even if your target institution is not among the top 40. Transfer students can anticipate acceptance rates at public flagship institutions to be around 10%, for instance.

No matter where you plan to transfer, if you don’t have an articulation agreement, you should aim for a higher GPA than what is expected of students with articulation agreements. To make your application stand out, you ought to attempt to become involved at your community college just like you did in high school.

Is It Better to Go to Community College First, Then Transfer?

Students for Whom Community College is a Good Fit

While there are costs associated with attending community college before transferring to a bachelor’s program, some students will discover that it is actually the best option for them. How do you determine whether it is the best fit for you?

Not Academically Ready

For a four-year college after high school, some students are not academically prepared. If the majority of your grades are Cs and Ds, enrolling in community college can help you close the academic achievement gap between high school and college courses so you can get the most out of all four years of your education.

You will have the time and space to work on your study and time management skills in a community college setting without the risks (or expenses) of entering a four-year program right away. If your ACT or SAT score is under 13 or 750, respectively, this may also apply to you.

Close to Home

If you have to stay close to home, community college might be a good choice for you. This frequently occurs because a student looks after a loved one or provides for the family financially. It’s great if you live close to the four-year institution of your choice.

Community colleges are typically within 10 miles of most urban and even suburban areas, but if you must be close to home and that is not an option, they do exist. You can advance in your education by going to one for the first two years.

A further advantage is that the course schedules at community colleges are frequently flexible, enabling you to enroll in classes part-time if necessary (tuition is typically charged by college credit, not by semester).

Is It Better to Go to Community College First, Then Transfer?

Healthcare Aspirations

If you have a lower GPA and/or test scores and want to work in the healthcare industry as a nurse, physical therapist, or occupational therapist, community college is a good option to think about. You can work in the industry with an associate degree you’ll receive after two years.

You would be able to gain practical experience in the industry while pursuing your four-year degree, or until you are able to return for it, even though it wouldn’t be on the same level as a bachelor’s degree. Since more and more colleges are offering accelerated RN to BS programs, it might go more quickly than you anticipate.

Conclusion: Decide Now

It’s not necessary to view community college only as a stepping stone to a four-year institution. Graduates with two-year degrees can also take advantage of numerous worthwhile employment opportunities.

Give the community college option some serious thought if you are unsure of your major, how you will pay for school or your capacity for adjustment and academic success.

To avoid wasting time and money, you must plan your transition from a 2-year community college to a 4-year bachelor’s program. Numerous credits may be accepted for transfer, but it depends on the institution.

To make sure that your transfer is successful and secure, we’ve provided all the information you’ll need in our guide above.


Are Classes Harder at a University Than a Community College?

In terms of tuition, ease of admission, flexibility, school-life balance, and many other factors, community colleges are definitely “easier” than a university. On the other hand, if you inquire as to whether community college courses are in any way simpler than university courses, we will reply that it depends.

Will a University Accept My Community College Credits?

While some colleges will accept only full credits, others might only accept partial credits, some colleges may not accept any credits at all. All that’s left to do is decide which university will accept most, if not all, of the credits you anticipate obtaining at a community college.

If I Take a Break After Earning My Associate’s Degree, Would My Credits Expire?

In general, credits shouldn’t expire, but even the most accommodative universities rarely accept transfer credits after ten years. In fields like IT or medicine, where the nature of the course material changes quickly over time, they might even expire earlier.

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