Written by Jenna Perry

School is starting back up and with those of you entering your senior year of high school that means applying to college, if you haven’t begun to do so already. This means countless hours spent researching schools, writing essays for them, and filling out multiple applications.

When applying to a school, a lot of things need to be taken into consideration. What’s the housing like? Is there women’s only housing? Is there even housing?  Can I commute? How much is a plane ticket home? Can freshman have cars? How much is it a semester? For a meal plan? Books? Are there scholarship opportunities? Do they have a good program for the major I’m interested in? Sports teams? Clubs? Etc.

Before you spend hours writing an essay for a school, you need to make sure they have everything you need. You should even check the cost of the application fee, because they can add up.

There’s a lot that goes into choosing a college, like what type of college you want to attend, whether it be a community college or a four-year university. But what exactly is the difference between the two types of schools?

1. Cost

The cost of a university is significantly higher than the cost of a semester at a two-year school.

Between 2014-2015, the average cost of tuition at a private university was $31,231, $9,139 for a public in state university, and $22,958 for an out-of-state public university. Keep in mind, this does not include housing costs which is about $7,500 to $9,000 per year. This rate is subject to change, however. For example, NYU’s housing cost can reach up to $18,000 per year, due to the high costs of living in the city.

For a community college, the cost of tuition is about $3,000. Also, most community colleges are commuter schools, so housing is most likely something you won’t have to factor in.

Another thing that you need to consider when thinking about going to a four-year school is the distance from your house. If you’re thinking of going out of state, you really need to consider the cost of flying home for holidays and winter/spring breaks. If you live in New York and go to school in California you might not be able to afford flying back and forth anytime you want to. Combined with the higher out-of-state tuition cost, transportation costs can heavily influence whether you should go to that school or not.

Community colleges in general are much cheaper than universities. And while scholarships, loans, and financial aid are available, a real conversation about overall costs needs to be had.

2. People

One of the major differences between the two types of schools are the people, or more so the amount of people you meet.

Logically speaking, it’s easier to meet more people at a university, just because there are more people that attend a university. Another thing that I’ve noticed, is people at universities tend to build stronger relationships/friendships with the people they go to school with than those who go to a community college. When you dorm and live on the same campus with the same people for an entire year, it’s easier to build relationships with them.

At a community college, it’s a bit trickier to build these bonds. First off, the ages of the people at a community college are often all over the place. My 8AM psych class had high school students earning college credits and 35 year-old  parents. It’s a little more unlikely to see this at a university, even more unlikely to have them living on campus.

The people at community college are also often commuters. They come to school, for a class or two, and then leave to their job or their home. You don’t see them again for the rest of the day, unlike universities where you can study with them in the library after class, see them in the dining hall, or hanging out with your dorm neighbor.

It’s a lot easier to make friends at a university than a community college, however you can still meet a lot of people at both if you put yourself out there.

3. Classes

The first difference with classes is the greater flexibility community college offers when picking classes. Because many students commute and are often balancing full-time jobs on top of classes, the school offers many classes at many different times of the day.

It can be a bit trickier when planning classes at university, especially when you reach your junior and senior year, when your classes aren’t as common. You just might end up taking an 8PM Friday class for something like molecular endocrinology that on a campus that’s 40 minutes from your dorm.

Regarding difficulty of the classes: it varies. I’ve taken easy courses at community college and I’ve had friends at universities who’ve had the same. I’ve also taken extremely difficult classes with exams that should be illegal. However, I would say that overall, the classes at a community college are much easier, because the school is geared towards students graduating after two years, earning a degree or certificate, and then getting a job.

4. Sports/Clubs

This one is pretty straight forward. If you’re looking to play sports in college, you’ll most likely want to go to a university. Most people who are serious enough about the sport they play to consider playing in college, will be looking at universities only. While community colleges do offer many sports teams, they are often recreational and not at the professional level that universities have achieved.

For clubs, it’s the same thing. There are a billion and one clubs offered at universities for anything that you could imagine. Two-year schools have clubs, but the more standard ones that you would find in a high school setting. That doesn’t mean you couldn’t create your own club, though. If your community college doesn’t have an LGBT+ club (which almost every university has these days) then you could very well create your own. Bonus points too, because that would look great on a transfer application to a four-year school and on a job application!

5. Jobs

Ah, jobs. Good old employment. In any college, two-year or four-year, you’re going to need a job. If you’re considering community college, then you might be able to keep your high school job. You could also look locally around the college for some options. You have more flexibility too because of the leniency when it comes to picking classes and making a class schedule.

The only downside is that local jobs are almost always your only option for job opportunities. Many two-year schools offer jobs to students, but the pay can be lower than say, a waitressing job (plus tips), and hours are often low.

For universities, they offer many job opportunities within the school.  Working in the dining hall, on restaurants on campus, in the school’s library, the tech department, the possibilities are really endless, depending upon the size of your school.  You could also go job shopping outside the school’s campus and in the nearby cities or towns. A lot of places are looking for college students and are thankfully willing to work with your crazy class schedules.

6. Making a Decision

Choosing what school to go to can but scary, but when it comes down to it, choose whatever school you want. It doesn’t matter if you’re at a two-year or a four-year, you’re still choosing to further your education at a college level. You graduated high school and are still looking for more education. Now you could argue that in this day and age you have to go to college to get a job, but not all people feel that way and not all people are choosing to go to college. Also keep in mind, your agreement to attend a certain college isn’t final. You can transfer and attend another school that better suits you. It’s your education, it’s your future, own it.

For information on both two-year and four-year schools, you can go to collegeboard.org  for a lot of helpful and customizable tools to aid you in your search for the best school that suits your needs! You can also apply for the PSAT/NMSQTs and SATs here, and find aids on how to study for the tests.

Also, don’t forget to check out commonapp.org when applying to schools. You can fill out ONE application and send it to multiple schools, saving you bucket loads of time.

ALSO! If you plan on applying to a school and you have the opportunity to, visit it! Often times the school offers waived application fees if you visit the school. Even simply applying online can waive the fee.

Good luck in school this year and best of luck to you all!

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