How to Succeed in Community College
Making the grade while attending a public two-year institution.
High school students preparing for community college may have chosen these schools for any number of reasons. For one, community colleges typically have open enrollments, admitting qualified high school grads without the rigorous entrance requirements most four-year schools demand. Such schools also enable students to get a feel for college, to improve their study skills and to prepare for transfer to a four-year school. Public two-year colleges charge much lower tuition than four-year institutions and are sometimes an end to themselves, meaning a student can get the training they need there for a job once they obtain their degree or certificate.
If you are planning to attend community college, there are some things you can do now to ensure your success later on.
1. Make a goal and pursue it. Are you going to community college to obtain a degree or a certificate? Or do you plan to transfer to a four-year college to obtain your bachelor’s degree? Plan to work with your community college adviser early on to establish a path to transferring your credits to a four-year school. If you already know what school you want to attend, familiarize yourself with its transfer procedure. For example, Arizona State University offers students transferring from Arizona community colleges detailed and clear instructions on how to transfer. You’ll want to identify what steps you need to take early on and focus on transferring your credits.
2. Inquire about articulation agreements. Much has changed with community colleges in recent years as these schools work closely with four-year institutions to help transfer students successfully move on. Ask your college adviser about articulation agreements between your school and four-year colleges. Some states, such as North Carolina, have comprehensive agreements between the state’s community colleges and its public universities. Some two-year schools have also made arrangements with private colleges and universities.
3. Seek help early on. You’ll take a variety of classes at community college with some you’ll find easy to handle and others more of a challenge. Community colleges offer free tutoring, but you need to ask for help if you having trouble with a course. Your college adviser can assist, but he or she likely has hundreds of other students to work with and may not be able to intervene as quickly. The first low grade you get on a test should serve as a warning that you need help. It could be that you don’t understand the material or you may need help in crafting a disciplined study schedule. Or it could be a matter of motivation. The University of Victoria offers helpful information on how to study including a “self management checklist” to help keep you on track.
4. Look beyond remedial courses. Many students attend community college to improve their academic standing. Remedial courses including basic skills in math and writing are offered. Most other students don’t need these classes and are ready to pursue the college’s curriculum. However, if you did well in high school you may qualify for an honors program offered by some community colleges. This option is ideal for top students that couldn’t afford a four-year school, but don’t want to miss out on taking honors courses. Visit the National Collegiate Honors Council website to learn which community colleges are among its member institutions. Even if your community college doesn’t have a formal honors program it may offer courses reserved for high-achieving students.
Many community colleges have worked diligently down through the years to raise academic standards and prepare students for careers or to transfer to four-year institutions. Some community colleges now offer four-year degrees including Miami Dade College, which dropped “community” from its name. Whether community college is your final destination or a steppingstone in your academic pursuits, you can make such schools work for you.