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Top 5 Myths about Community College

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Community college is a very popular topic right now. And with popularity comes rumors and misconceptions. Selecting an educational path is a big decision, and before you make that decision (or help someone to make that decision) it’s important to have a clear understanding of the alternatives. So, to put an end to some of these misconceptions, here is a list of the most common myths about community colleges!

Myth #1: Community College Students Can’t Transfer into Ivy League Institutions

False! While I can’t quote exact numbers (to my knowledge this data is not tracked), I can tell you anecdotally that Ivy League transfer is not only possible, but probable with the right guidance. Community college transfer students are proven, mature students and are more likely to graduate than incoming freshmen. Don’t take my word for it, UCLA’s Alfred Herrera said this to the College Board on the topic of transfers:

“My argument has always been that if a transfer student can juggle a full-time job, a full community college class load, and family responsibilities, and still perform at a reasonably high academic level, there’s no reason why they couldn’t be successful at this institution.”

Myth #2: Community Colleges Only Offer Vocational Courses

False! While community colleges do offer vocational courses (courses that teach specific skills for the workforce), they also offer traditional, liberal arts inspired degrees. First, we have the general education degrees or “transfer degrees” known as the Associate of Arts and Associate of Science. These degrees are designed to mimic the first two years of education at a four-year university, giving recipients the ability to graduate from community college as sophomores and “transfer” into a four-year school of their choice and continue as college juniors.

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Myth #3: Community College Students Get Less Financial Aid

False! Federal financial aid offers community college students the same type of aid as it does four-year students. The Pell Grant, for example, has a maximum award of $5,550 per year for any student attending an accredited college or university. Given that the American Association of Community Colleges reported in 2012 that the average tuition at a community college is only $2,963 per year, I would argue that, comparatively, community college students get the better part of the financial aid deal.

Myth #4: Community College Students Can’t Get Scholarships

“False” doesn’t even begin to describe this statement. I was one of the few students at my community college who actively pursued private scholarships (scholarships offered by individuals/organizations other than the student’s institution). If I had to describe an ideal student archetype for scholarships it would be a low-income, first-generation, minority student who has an interesting story. Community college students often fit this profile (or parts of it), so much so that I find it insane that more community college students don’t apply for scholarships. Unless the scholarship specifically states as an eligibility requirement that students “must be attending a four-year college or university” then it’s fair game for a community college student. (Side note: I would even argue that if you are attending a community college that offers accredited four-year degrees, technically making it a four-year college, then you can apply for that scholarship).

Myth #5: Community College Is Where the “Slackers” Go

Slackers are everywhere (fact). I went to one of the most expensive private colleges in the country and I can’t tell you how many slackers there were. Community colleges have slackers just like four-year colleges and universities have slackers. The stereotype of the community college student has changed drastically over the last 10 years. As the cost of a traditional four-year college education has skyrocketed into oblivion (check out this fun chart on rising tuition from, more and more students from all backgrounds are starting to choose community college. Community college is now where the forward-thinking, hard-working, and price-sensitive students go.

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Diane Melville has experienced community college transfer success first hand. After earning her AA in biomedical engineering from Miami Dade College, she was accepted into some of the best schools in the nation. She ultimately transferred to Babson College to earn her bachelor of science in entrepreneurship and marketing. Diane has dedicated her career as an education professional, entrepreneur, and public speaker to advocating for community college reform and bettering the financial aid system.

Melville is the author of The Community College Advantage.