You may hear some of your fellow classmates snicker about community colleges, as if the education you are getting is somehow sub-par compared to a “real” college – meaning, one with stricter admissions standards.
Don’t let that get you down. Chances are, your fellow classmate is not going to complete his education. He is just being defensive to brace the fall.
But, the stats say, community college students who actually complete their degrees have a better chance of not only doing better in life, but also of going on to a four-year college and graduating from there, too. And such students actually do a little bit better than students who took the SAT and were admitted as freshmen, studies say.
According to John McLoughlin, Director of Strategic Recruitment at Mercy College, “Our transfer students are very focused, smart and hard working. They come to Mercy College well prepared to succeed inside and outside the classroom. Our transfer students are best prepared for the college experience and more likely to graduate if they complete an associate’s degree prior to coming to Mercy.”
Even so, students need to be very proactive when choosing a transfer college. Once a student – even if he or she is just a freshman at a community college – knows which four-year college he or she may attend, that student should contact the four-year college to ensure all courses will transfer properly. Don’t just rely on information from your community college when signing up for courses there.
Becky Wai-Ling Packard, Ph.D., Associate Dean of Faculty at Mount Holyoke College (Mass.), stated: “Community college students need to reach out early to four-year institutions to make sure the courses they are taking now will transfer into their intended major. Many students lose credits and time because the credits will transfer generally but not necessarily for the major.”
Once at the four-year college, the work will be a bit harder, as well as socializing with new people in a new place. But many four-year colleges are geared up for transfer students from community colleges.
Kellie Raffaelli, Assistant Director for the Center for Diversity and Inclusion at Michigan Tech University, has three tips for success: “Connect to on-campus resources and utilize those resources early and often; get involved with student and campus organizations; and don’t wait to utilize tutoring until you’re having a problem, be proactive.”
Mercy’s McLoughlin noted that his college takes incoming transfers very seriously. They have 20 people on staff to help students streamline their credit transfer. Mercy is generous with the credits that are accepted, as well: Up to 75 credits may transfer from a two-year college, so you may be able to take some summer courses at your local community college after you graduate with a two-year degree. Approximately 66% of Mercy’s students are transfers.
McLoughlin added another benefit to contacting a transfer college early – money. The sooner you can get on the financial aid and scholarship radar, the more likely you are to get a good part of your tuition covered. “Mercy College is one of the most affordable private schools in the Northeast,” he said. “We offer a large number of transfer scholarships, loans and need-based grants designed for transfer students.”
But Mount Holyoke’s Dr. Wai-Ling Packard added a bit of caution.
A big difference between community college and four-year students is that many more community college students work a lot. Many may put their jobs first. At a four-year college, you should look to either work less or, at least, find a job that complements your education by offering flexible hours or, in general, low impact.
“The biggest issue that a student can face is trying to work as many hours in a part-time or full-time job as they did at the community college,” Dr. Wai-Ling Packard said. “Finding a job that will allow for flexibility in scheduling can help. More often, a student will need to gauge their ability to work as compared to completing the credits. Often, the time vs. money can be at odds because in order to take as many credits as needed, the student cannot work as many hours for pay as they did.”
So, going to a transfer college will take a good deal of planning – credit-wise and financially. Contact your potential four-year college early on in the process, and save as much as you can. That said, the odds are in your favor to succeed once you get there – especially if you choose a college that specializes in transfers.