Community college is a choice that can be made at the very end of the process – the summer after 12th grade. The problem with making this decision early is that if you let the fall go by and do NOT apply to any four-year colleges, you are basically closing off that option entirely. We like to keep options open as long as possible, which means doing SOME four-year applications in the senior year, just so that your student will have different choices.
Community college transfer rates to four-year colleges and universities are very low. Even if the college advertises its tremendous transfer rate (which some community colleges in our area do), the raw numbers are frightening. Nationally, 70% of community college students never successfully transfer to earn a bachelor’s degree. It’s easy to see how this can happen: a student starts at a community college, taking four or five classes, which takes up two to three days per week. They get a part-time job in their spare time. They get promoted! They get a pay raise. The next semester they take three or four community college classes, or maybe just two. They start working more hours, and are promoted to a management position. Suddenly, those sixty credits necessary to transfer seem so far away and nearly impossible. The student loses motivation and school is no longer the top priority. Some California newspapers are demanding that the California community college system do more to prevent this; but for some it’s just a reality of how things play out.
For students who didn’t quite do well enough in high school to get into a UC school, our advice is a little bit different: the UC schools take significant numbers of transfer students, and THEY PRIORITIZE community college students. Why? Because community college students are not in an institution that offers them a bachelor’s degree. They MUST transfer to get a BA or a BS degree. Students at a CSU school, a private university or another out-of-state public school already have a four-year degree path. So the UCs review community college transfer applications more favorably than those in other situations – you can see in this summer, 2015 announcement that the UC is trying very hard to facilitate community college transfers. Ninety percent of students who transfer into UC schools come from California community colleges! This means that community college IS a good choice for those students who want to graduate from a UC and were not admitted as freshmen.
Making the decision to attend a community college has some benefits and drawbacks. The question isn’t whether or not going to community college is a good choice – it’s whether or not it’s the right choice for you!