OK stop playing with your PS5 and get up. School is back in session and you have a few options to go back now. While you can go to a trade school or get an internship without attending college, many people choose college because a degree looks better on your resume.
But I’m going to advocate for attending a community college first as the best way to get back to school. While some new and prospective students may be thinking of going straight to a four-year college, I think there are a few good reasons to go to community college before. Number one is saving money. We all know that the price of college is getting exorbitant and that the schools make most of their money on on-campus living.
So finishing your general education requirements at a community college is a great investment—as long as you remember a few things:
General Ed – First of all, general ed at a four year is as I said much more expensive. With this though, you should have a four-year college in view or at least the type of school you would like to subsequently attend. The reason for this is so you can take the right courses in general ed at the community college so the units will transfer and fulfill those general ed requirements. Compare the community college and four-year college course catalogs.
Second – DON’T DROP OUT. It’s tempting after leaving high school or going back to school to take junior college much too easy. Some students take classes aimlessly and never finish. Taking a full-time load will get you to your destination on time, within the two years. If you work during school, you will have to maintain an organized schedule to keep yourself on your goal.
Schedule your day – Getting a full schedule and working while in school are an important part of transitioning to a four-year. In my undergraduate alma mater, I had to hold down a job as well and it prepared me for my return to off-campus life afterward. You will have to get ready for the school work you will have at a four-year as well. Generally the classes are more demanding than a two-year school. Staying on a schedule keeps you disciplined and on your goal.
Discover your likes – This cannot be recommended more strenuously. College is a great time to find out who you want to be, especially with its social aspects. Explore while at community college. If general education does not expose you to a career path, then choose some other interesting classes, like electives to give you a breather. (I got SCUBA certified and learned how to sail in college.)
For all this, in San Diego we have the community college district, composed of San Diego City College (which has 80 academic programs), San Diego Mesa College (66 academic programs), San Diego Miramar College (42 academic programs) and San Diego College of Continuing Education (formerly San Diego Continuing Education; 16 academic programs and 54 certificate programs).
I wanted to give a shout out to San Diego College of Continuing Education (sdce.edu). I’ve taken a number of classes with them, and while they don’t confer degrees, the programs and classes are all free. I can’t think of a better bargain. The teachers have been very personable and I have met a variety of people in the IT classes: people working on a certificate, people doing post-college work, people trying to get their continuing ed credits for IT while working, and older and retiree students just expanding their horizons. The teachers are very accessible, usually through email, and bring in guest speakers and people in the business community you are studying for. Networking and LinkedIn contacts are par for the course!
In addition to classes in 16 academic areas, SDCCE offers certificates in automotive, business and accounting, child development, clothing and textiles, digital media and programming, healthcare, hospitality and culinary arts, information technology, and skilled and technical trades. Most of the classes are in the evenings and they are moving back into in-person classes right now. Did I mention SDCCE is free?
At any of these schools, make use of campus counselors. They’ve been there and can help guide you to completion.
I will also acknowledge that the social part of a four-year colleges is important to socialization, but cutting it back to two years increases productivity as you are focused on your major.