Students who are ultimately aiming for a bachelor's degree shouldn't
rule out two-year community colleges (also known as junior colleges) from
their list of possible choices. Though community colleges don't offer bachelor's
degrees, the studies you complete there can count towards a bachelor's degree
at another school.
This is the two-plus-two option, in which two-year
college diplomas are recognized as the first two years of a four-year college
degree. Transfer agreements between schools are making it easier than ever
to transfer from community colleges to four-year colleges or universities,
especially within the same state.
"More and more states have developed
seamless transfer opportunities from partner colleges or junior colleges,"
says Cheryl Brown, director of undergrad admissions at Binghamton University
in New York state. Each year, Binghamton has an average of about 1,000 transfer
students -- of these, about half come from two-year schools.
California, for example, all community and junior colleges participate in
the Intersegmental General Education Transfer Curriculum (IGETC). This is
a transfer core curriculum that meets the basic educational requirements of
"Golden Gate University honors IGETC guidelines
for general education requirements," says Louis D. Riccardi Jr., director
of enrollment services at San Francisco's Golden Gate University (GGU). Last
year the school transferred about 130 students from two-year institutions.
Most two-year colleges in California highlight all IGETC-approved
courses in their course catalogs. However, it's the students' responsibility
to make sure that they have chosen courses with transferable credits if they
aim to obtain a bachelor's degree.
"If the student does not know what
four-year institution and program they'd like to transfer to, they may find
out they're wasting time and money by taking courses that won't transfer,"
Riccardi points out. He offers this suggestion:
"If a student knows
in advance that they want to come to GGU, they can secure a guaranteed transfer
admission agreement with their transfer center and GGU to ensure a smooth
transition. The benefit to the student is that they get to have regular contact
with our counseling staff, who can advise them on courses to take and when
Riccardi also notes that undergraduates are given a "path
to completion" explaining precisely which courses are needed to graduate.
Some students use community college to complete basic required classes
before transferring to a four-year school. But it's not mandatory to have
fixed long-term plans before going in. The community college option gives
room to explore, though the course plan may have to be adjusted as the student's
long-term goals take shape.
Albert Palmer is a student at Richland
College, a community college in Dallas, Texas. "My initial plan for attending
Richland College was to enhance some of my skills as a photographer," he says.
He took courses in digital photography and learned how to use digital photo
"I also enrolled in a small business management
course to teach me how to operate a business, inside and out," Palmer says.
small business management teacher was very good and very inspirational. Taking
her class, and taking heed of some positive advice, I'm now seeking an associate's
He plans to transfer to Southern Methodist University
in the same city to earn his bachelor's degree in business administration.
After that, he intends to enter SMU's graduate school and eventually earn
If a transfer becomes part of your plan, keep in mind
that students don't necessarily need to earn a two-year degree before transferring.
The work accomplished at a community college, especially the relevant completed
courses, will be taken into account by the college you transfer to.
place the student at the appropriate level -- whether they have earned the
AA [associate of arts] degree or not," says E. Vagos Hadjimichael, dean of
the school of engineering at Fairfield University in Connecticut. Last year
Fairfield admitted seven community college transfer students. "Every student
will do the same curriculum required for graduation," he says.
a four-year institution, it really doesn't matter so much to us if the students
get the degree or not," Brown says, "A student could transfer at any point
in the cycle."
"We do a course-by-course evaluation," Riccardi says.
"While the associate's degree is not necessarily important, the courses taken
in the degree are essential.
A student can transfer in with zero [semester]
units or up to 70 units from a community college. Many like to transfer with
junior standing, having satisfied all of their lower division requirements."
This route allows students to offset the cost of their studies in community
college, he says.
Cost is, perhaps, the biggest reason students choose
to attend community colleges, which are far more affordable than four-year
schools. But there are other advantages too.
"Some students choose
a community college because they haven't done as well in high school, and
know that by doing well at a community college they can increase their chances
of getting into a selective four-year school," Brown says. "Those students
benefit by taking more courses at the community college so they can prove
themselves and be confident that they can do the coursework at a rigorous
Community colleges offer many opportunities besides
the coursework, and students should take advantage of them. Palmer, for instance,
has added extracurricular achievements to his coursework at Richland College.
He is president of the African-American Latino Student Alliance and president
of the Richland College Management Club. He was also one of three students
selected from 88,000 candidates to attend a legislative summit in Washington,
D.C. with the school's chancellor.
Riccardi says that besides cost
and opportunities, there is another motivator for some California students
choosing a community college. "There can be a fear factor in going to a four-year
college," he says. "Community colleges are so promoted [in California] that
many feel more comfortable going there first. It can be an advantage for a
student to build their confidence, and then advance to the next level as they
In terms of success with a subsequent bachelor's degree,
most transfer students do as well at four-year schools as students who have
been enrolled since their freshman year.
"At least here at Binghamton,
they do extremely well," says Brown. "They do well academically. They take
advantage of the career center, and they are recruited by the same employers
who recruit students who came in as freshmen."
"Most of [the transfer
students] are very motivated," Hadjimichael says. "All of them finish the
program, some over more years than others. There has never been a case in
recent years, that I know of, when a [community college] transfer student
failed to graduate from Fairfield University." He adds that some of the engineering
school's transfer students go on to pursue a master's degree.
a transition between schools can be challenging at any point in one's education."
says Riccardi. The key to a successful two-and-two community college/four-year
college program is planning ahead.
"It's important for a student
to know which four-year institution and what program they would like to transfer
into," Riccardi says, "If they know exactly what makes up the basic proficiencies
and foundation portion of a program, they can take the appropriate courses
and feel confident that they're maximizing transfer credit."