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Two-Year Schools

“Straightforward and to the point” could very well be the motto of the 10 million students in America who attend community and technical colleges. Some students just have no interest in living in a dorm, attending a bowl game, or joining a club. Alternately, some students don’t want to pay a small fortune to earn a degree, so they attend a community college with the intention of eventually transferring to a four-year college or university. Either way, there’s been a rapid increase in admissions at two-year colleges in the last few years. Whether or not this is the right school for you, however, is another matter.

Characteristics

You might think that the largest schools in the country are the aforementioned public universities. After all, the University of Texas and Ohio State University both enroll more than 50,000 students. But the largest college in the nation is actually a two-year school, Miami-Dade Community College, with an enrollment of 160,000 students. And each year more than 10 million individuals attend community college on a full- or part-time basis, making these institutions the choice for the majority of students in the nation.

Two-year schools, especially public community and technical colleges, have extremely diverse student bodies, generally small class sizes, and charge significantly less tuition than even public four-year colleges. Despite the name, a few even offer four-year degrees. These colleges are typically commuter schools, meaning they rarely offer student housing, and you won’t find the extensive student services that are typical of most universities.

Selectivity

Two-year colleges admit the majority of applicants, so getting in should not be a problem. Typically, all you will need is your high school diploma or GED. Community and technical colleges generally administer assessment tests instead of requiring the ACT or SAT, but these tests are used for class placement only and do not determine admission.

Community Colleges

Community colleges, or junior colleges as they are sometimes called, primarily offer two-year associates of arts (AA) and associates of applied science (AAS) degrees in a wide variety of fields. For example, Sinclair Community College in Dayton, Ohio, has departments in liberal arts, engineering, and even fine arts and performing arts, which means you can pretty much study the same things here that you would at a four-year college or university. Many community colleges are similar to four-year colleges in non-academic ways, with extensive student activities programs. Some community colleges also have terrific intercollegiate athletic programs, with many athletes eventually going on to star at major NCAA programs during their junior and senior years.

Technical Colleges

Technical colleges focus primarily on providing students with a specific skill, primarily offering associate of technical arts (ATA) and associate of applied science (AAS) degrees. These colleges offer a diverse range of programs—anything from degrees in automotive repair to Web development. In general, however, technical colleges specialize in training students for entering the workforce, as opposed to pursuing a four-year degree.

Transfer Strategy

Although degrees in community and technical colleges can be transferred to four-year colleges and universities, there are some caveats. First, if you intend on pursuing a degree at one of the highly competitive elite colleges, you may find it practically impossible to gain entry as a student transferring from a two-year college. Additionally, some less selective universities may not accept all of your college credits even if you do gain admission.

If you attend a two-year college with the intention of transferring to a four-year school, look for community and technical colleges with articulation agreements. Articulation agreements are contracts between two- and four-year schools that specify which degrees and credits will transfer when you pursue your bachelor’s degree. The best articulation agreements allow students to transfer all of their credits. If some of your credits don’t transfer, you may sacrifice any cost savings you hoped to gain by attending a two-year school.

Workforce Strategy

As mentioned above, technical colleges primarily train students for entry into the workforce. Some careers, including some high-paying fields in computer science and health, don’t require a bachelor’s degree. However, when choosing the right technical college, you will want to find one that has a good record of job placement. You’ll also want to look out for programs that place students directly into internships or apprenticeships while they earn their degrees.

 
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