Community College or University – Which is Right for You?

non-traditional students

Both community colleges and four year universities offer different advantages to students. The choice on which to attend depends on several factors, including one’s financial status and career goals. With tuition costs continuing to rise at universities, many students are choosing community colleges for some or all of their higher education. A few things to consider when deciding between a two year and four year institution:


For most people, finances will be the most important consideration when deciding between a two year or four year college. You may receive more scholarships at a certain college, which makes the decision easier. And if you don’t get a full ride at a four year college, community college makes a smart choice financially. Save money on your basic (core) courses at a community college so you won’t have such a financial burden while in school and after you graduate.


A community college and a four year university will have very different atmospheres. Some people want the traditional college experience, while others prefer a more practical outlook on higher education. A community college is likely to have smaller classes, and fewer students overall. Many students may be older and working while going to school. At a university, classes can be very large (especially in lower level courses) and you may not get to know your instructors as well as you would like. Universities, on the other hand, are likely to offer more campus activities and class options. The environment you prefer depends on your stage in life and personality.


Location, online class options, and other factors may make one choice much more convenient. Going to a college that’s nearby or offers more online options can save you considerable time and transportation costs. Convenience will be particularly important for working adults that need more flexible, convenient education options.

Career Goals

There are many great careers that only require an associate’s degree. If you’re leaning towards a field that doesn’t require a four year degree, it may be best to start at a community college while you decide what path you want to take. Get some of your core classes out of the way and explore your options without spending a lot of money. On the other hand, you may decide you want to major in something that isn’t offered at your local community college. Starting out at a community college is usually an option (assuming your courses will transfer), but lower level courses at a university may better prepare you for the upper level courses in your degree program.

Still not sure which option is best? Read our post on factors to consider when choosing a college.